Posts Tagged ‘Challenge’

Exactly two months ago today I was in the shape of my life when, poof!, it all disappeared and my life instead took on a completely different type of “Ironman” adventure, one that included having seven titanium pins inserted into my left hand.  Not exactly the beginning, or end for that matter, of the 2017 triathlon season that I was hoping for (click HERE for a reminder).

These last two months have certainly not been easy and I have to contend with and endure some very difficult low points but I’m coming through it now; I can begin to see the light at the other end of the tunnel.  I figure then that having been exactly two months, it was time to post some sort of follow up on the healing process overall and shed some light on where I currently stand in regards to getting back on the ‘ol proverbial horse as it were.

The first four weeks were certainly the hardest as I struggled to simply deal with the situation (click HERE for that reminder).  Thankfully, I have more or less come through that now and am beginning to look to what the future holds for me in regards to the next challenge.

(Insert image of a mythological bird taking flight over smoldering ruins here)

The first issue needing addressing is the weight issue.  This was inevitably going to be the case as sitting around in an EZ-Boy unable to do anything isn’t exactly the key to maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.  You know what you don’t want when you’re forced to sit around bored and incapacitated?  Salad.  Well, not unless you substitute all the lettuce and spinach for, oh I don’t know, Cheetohs.  And then swap the tomatoes, onion, and cucumbers for, say, Skittles, Gummy Bears and, peanut butter cups while you’re at it.  There.

That makes me feel superb.

So, yeah, I’ve put on a few pounds.

This was always in the cards of course as part of the post-Ironman recovery process, but at least I would have had one momentous accomplishment to look back on and be proud of in order to justify my laziness.

Without that, I’ve just gotten fat.

Period.

This change towards a healthier diet now that I’m beginning to be more active again will begin immediately.   Coupled with that, I am going to begin my regular (if not daily) core regimen to begin building back lean muscle and prepare my body to once again (three times the charm!) handle the rigors of all my off-season training.  This was likely the smartest thing I did all year in preparation for Ironman so I aim to reinitiate that program.  The upshot to all this, is that I also need to regenerate the muscles in my left hand and forearm, so this is also an excellent add-on to my regular physio treatments.

Speaking of building muscle, the biggest challenge at the moment is dealing with the severely atrophied muscles in my legs.  When this whole shit storm erupted, I was cycling stronger than I ever have before with a strength and endurance that I had previously never imagined and was on track with being able to accomplish a sub 5 hour 30 minute Ironman bike pace.  Now that power is gone.  Rather, I have the power, but I can’t maintain it for any significant length of time.

I just don’t have the wherewithal to do the long distances at the moment.

But that’s okay seeing as how my “riding season” was already aimed at being “fun” anyway, in just being able to get out and ride with Hailey and Kelly and I can do that once more.  I still have The Big Move to look forward to where I will once again be serving for the 10th time in the capacity as a “sweep” rider, then Hailey and I will attempt our second annual “Daddy-Daughter Bike Adventure” (click HERE for last years’ account) come October.  This year the plan is to ride out to Dunnville for brunch (approx. 65k).   I still slip in the odd ride on my own however when time and schedule allow and I’m confident that the legs will return in time.

The major challenge right now is swimming where, essentially, I am back to square one.

For anyone who swims (like, really  swims) they will understand that swimming is all about form and having an immediate “feel” for the water.  The current lack of mobility and muscle in my left hand in part with the severed and regenerating nerve endings after the surgery mean that I’ve now lost this instinctual feel for the water.

however, now that I’m back in the water, the goal is to reacquire this feel and regain my form ASAP so that means drills, drills, paddles and more drills.  Getting in the pool 3-4 times a week, even for short distances (1500m-2500m) is a big priority for me right now, having once prided myself on being an accomplished swimmer.

I really  want to regain that confidence in the water once again.

Running.

Gah!

I was just getting to a place where I was beginning to feel like a runner after years of trying to make peace with it.  Running for me has never been easy.  Having said that, by mid-June I was running off-the-bike comfortably and strongly with no adversity, or what’s commonly called among triathletes as “cement legs”.  That was definitely huge progress after nearly a decade in the sport.  While I might not have been the fastest runner in the field, I was consistent and running with decent form.

Now, with the added weight of two meaty man tits to contend with, that form and consistency have all but evaporated.  As with cycling, it’s back to the beginning and as with swimming, that means drills, drills, and more ABC drills.  Fortunately, the intense heat and humidity of summer has more or less passed so getting out now for easy(ish) short runs around the surrounding area – even it’s just to visit the neighborhood cat (click HERE) – isn’t the most challenging thing I need to get geared up to accomplish.  Once my legs muscle begin to return I will amp up these weekly runs to once again include regular fartleks, hill, speed, tempo and even long distance workouts through the week.

So, physically, I’m coming along nicely and have taken my first few tentative steps (and strokes) along the comeback trail, so to speak.

Mentally?

That’s a bit more daunting.

While I believe that I am on the right path, I’m still impatient and often find myself feeling angry or jealous of others around me who all still in their peak fitness and accomplishing great things.  I mean, it’s not them that I am angry with, but the circumstances if that makes sense.  I have done all the hard work already – twice – and still have nothing to show for it.  And now here I am again dealing with another (more major) setback.

It’s a hard thing to swallow regardless of how well things are going at the moment.

But as my chiropractic guru at Legacy Health & Fitness (also HERE), Dr. Kristin Burr who, I might add, has put this battered and sometimes broken body back together again more times than I can count, mentioned to me last week:

“You’re a real athlete now that you’ve had to deal with this type of serious injury and your ability to get past this is what’s going to define you as an athlete going forward.”

Huh.

I never thought of it quite like that.

Wise person this Dr. Burr.

But it’s true.  Everyone loves a comeback.  If I can manage to remain patient and not get too weighed down by the incredible psychological mire of doubt, regret and frustration and somehow successfully accomplish all the things I’ve mentioned above (not to mention finding a job) to reacquire my prior “Iron fitness” and – fingers crossed – once and for all complete this Ironman goal, that will be friggin’ huge.

HUGE.

I am very fortunate in that I already have the right team and the successful plan to follow (click HERE), I just need to be able to follow through and pull the trigger once the stars manage to correctly align themselves…whenever that happens to be.

THAT will be something truly epic.

And so that’s my motivation and mental state at the moment:

Be patient.  Be smart.  All good things to those who persevere.

We can rebuild him.

Again.

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Well, I did it.

Exactly 116 days ago on January 1st of this year, in lieu of not being able to run at the time I committed myself to instead focusing on a different kind of challenge, something dubbed as “The 28 Day Challenge” (click HERE and HERE).

My goals were easy enough:

  1. Improve core strength
  2. Losing some weight

I already understood how important the core was to overall performance (click HERE), but it was never a huge focus in my training; haphazard at best.  Rather I would go through short periods of keeping up with it but then it would trail off again in lieu of other more sparkly interests and obsessions.

Anyway, mission accomplished this time around.

So good in fact that I decided to keep up with it and extended the challenge to the 100 Day mark (click HERE).

However, while I gave myself a bit of flexibility here in making it a daily ritual – no exceptions – I did raise the bar once more by setting two more personal goals.

  1. Be able to hold a 5 minute plank.
  2. Perform 60 push-ups in 60 seconds.

Mission accomplished there as well.

After that, I just kind of kept up with it although I decided to not bore any of you here with the details.

For the most part, after three posts in succession I figured you’d all be:

But, rest assured, it was still a part of my regular training regimen.

And while, yes, I did allow myself some days off (a whopping 16 in total) depending on what else I had committed to that day, it’s safe to say that this has become a daily habit now.

The big question then is what exactly did I accomplish in all this time?

Well, I ran some numbers this morning and the results had me literally performing some serious mental jujitsu on myself.

Get a load of these numbers:

  • Total mat time spent: 28 hours, 48 minutes
  • Total push-up count: 7,948
  • Most push-ups in a single week: 1,171
  • Total planking count: 8 hours, 15 minutes
  • Longest plank: 6 minutes, 28 seconds

Great googly-moogly!

So here, now let me wave something really shiny in front of you monkeys.

While not directly related solely to my core routine, I am now down 11lbs.

BOO-YAH!

The real upshot though is that I feel strong…real  strong.

My running has come a long way since those initial dark days in January (click HERE), I feel absolutely powerful on the bike and already I’m laying down some impressive paces for being this early into the season, and I accomplished my “Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids” (click HERE) rather effortlessly in a much faster time than in previous years.

Plus, I started to get back into the yoga studio as well so you can add those once-a-week workouts to the ‘ol Bonfire of Awesome I got burning (click HERE) as well.

So, yeah, I’m kickin’ it.

The real hope is that this core strength building is going to pay off in dividends come race day by allowing me to hold my form over the course of 12-13 hours of Ironman racing.  So while I still struggle from time to time with my run pacing (aerobic and anaerobic conditioning), at least my body seems to be up to the task which makes me happy given my string of injuries leading out of 2016 and into 2017.

I’m realizing now that my body at that time just wasn’t up to the task and necessarily strong enough to do what I was expecting it to do when I prematurely forced it to go into long distance mode over the winter.  So this challenge forced me to slow down and concentrate on building myself back up smartly  before carrying on with the program, which I am currently attempting to do.

So what now?

Well, what else is there to say:

Little did I know that what Jake was really referring to was one of these:

254-voodoo-floss-band-web-h1

A “Voodoo band”.

Stay with me….

Going forward, I still plan on keeping with the program and making it an everyday thing when time allows.  I would still like to continue pushing my limits with the planking, but I have also begun now to begin incorporating more “injury prevention” type of drills into it as well, specifically those I’ve been reading about in the ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ book (Dr. Kelly Starrett) that I’ve been reading.

For example, deep squatting in order to improve hip strength.

Who knew this was even a thing?

And, no, I cannot do it properly…yet.

Likewise, being able to do a pistol squat as a means of developing my ankle range of motion, or improve hip extension by holding a proper couch stretch which, believe me, at the moment is about as much fun as pouring hot lava into your shorts.  And, yes, I want to begin using a Voodoo band (or “floss”) more regularly to improve my range, restore joint mechanics, and unglue matted down or previously injured tissue.

So even though I am well into long distance mode now, my “strength building” is more aimed at “injury prevention” and maintaining the strength I have built up thus far and managing the after effects of those long workouts.

Furthermore, my post-Ironman plan at the moment (immediately after the whole consuming of many Brimstone beers and CRAVE Local Fresh dinner plates that is) is going to be solely aimed at continuing this re-building process of developing my core and body mobility so that I don’t necessarily feel like I’m starting over from scratch again come September/October and with it, the host of nagging injuries that typically return as a result.

Oh, and anything that enables me not to look like a transvestite resisting arrest would be nice too.

Just sayin’…

So if anything, this challenge has taught me to train smarter.

And so smarter I shall be.

It has become one of my habits now to set a few goals through the off-season to work towards and which, ultimately, serve as benchmarks leading up to the accomplishment of the master plan being Ironman.  One of these regular goals is the completion of the Frank & Friends 10k Swim for Strong Kids at my local YMCA.

This has been my fifth year participating in and completing this charity swim and it has become the hallmark of my off-season training program; not to mention my motivation for getting my ass out of a warm bed at 5:00am on cold winter mornings.

Here are the particulars of my 2017 swim plan to date:

  • 182,025m covered in total (2,500m more than last year)
  • That’s an average of 14,205m per week for an average of 4 hours and 33 minutes (per week)
  • Which equates to 61 hours and 34 minutes spent in the pool
  • Over 47 different workouts

That’s not too shabby if I do say so myself.

17952595_10158536214270113_3324792525232267637_nI was particularly motivated this year as I was sharing the task with a friend and past training partner Steve, whom I met back in the early days of my triathlon quest.  I don’t necessarily remember how this partnership came about but I know there was definitely a beer in hand at a Christmas party where he actually committed to do the swim with me.  How many were consumed by that point is anyone’s guess but, true to his word, Steve took up the gauntlet and launched into his own preparation for this year’s event (click HERE for a little deeper insight into Steve’s rather “unique” training plan).

Besides getting to share this experience with someone it also meant that I wouldn’t have to deal with the hardest part of long distance swimming as far as I’m concerned:

B-O-R-E-D-O-M.

Seriously, when you’re spending the better part of three hours staring at the little hairs floating on the bottom of the pool, your brain tends to liquefy and slowly drain out your ears.

Let’s just say that it becomes very tedious indeed simply watching the black line endlessly pass underneath you and there’s a reason why I use this event to build up my overall “mental toughness”.

Believe me.

Usually, the last hour or so is just me – alone – simply trying not to go crazy.  So having someone to keep me company and share in the tediousness and general pacing was a huge benefit and I couldn’t really have been luckier in who offered to join me.

In past years, my 10k swims have clocked overall times of 3:22:50 (2016), 3:11:05 (2015) and 3:11:57 (2014), and 3:16:31 (2013) respectively.

Clearly, last year was a real struggle.

This year: 3:00:40.

That’s a difference of 11 minutes and 25 seconds over my best time.

Boo-yah!

Different from past years where I went it alone, Steve and I stopped every 500m  for a sip of water and a quick glance at one another before pushing off the wall again.  All in all, each break was only 4-5 seconds each.  Over the course of three hours, we only spend 4 minutes and 59 seconds resting and refueling.  Again, this represents a huge improvement over the 10 minutes or so between longer intervals in previous years so this plan seemed to work out much better.

Likewise, since we were splitting the pacing duties out front every 1,000m we managed a better average pace of 1:49min/100m and, really, it was only in the last 2,000-3,000m or so that our pace began to fade.

Some other interesting statistics for those of you who care:

  • I covered the distance in exactly 4,302 strokes
  • For an average of 23 strokes/minute
  • Burning exactly 2,400 calories in doing so

So what now?

Well, from here I begin pulling back on the distance and begin focusing more on speed and tempo work at the 4,000m  distance given my next swim goal is directly aimed at being among the first few out of the water at Hudson Valley (click HERE).  I will also be doing the Lake Okanagan Swim with HRH on July 15th (2,000m) – but that’s more of a fun bonding thing than it is any significant challenge.

Steve, however, is going to continue with the distance with – hopefully – designs on competing in a few open water events around Ontario meaning, of course, that we can both continue to motivate and train together in the open water come next month.

Well, that and getting rid of the pull buoy.

(Sorry Steve, couldn’t resist)

Anyway, seeing as how the Frank & Friends swim has now been reassigned to November we might even be doing this same swim again sooner than anticipated so there’s always that motivation to keep going as well.

I did it.  I have finally completed my “28 Day Challenge” (click HERE).  As I’ve previously stated, I’m usually very skeptical of these kinds of challenges but I needed a goal to focus on and be proud about in lieu of my steaming pile of fart pebbles that has become my current run program.  I decided then that I would pick one specific “limiter” in my current Ironman training regimen that I know I don’t do enough of and that I should do more of.  And that specific limiter was “core”.

To revisit, my goals were:

  1. Improved core strength
  2. A start at losing some weight

At the half-way point the results were definitely favorable, I was down 3lbs and able to do more push-ups in 3 minutes than I ever thought possible.  I was also able to hold a 3 minute plank (with perfect form), which had you asked me to do before this challenge I would have looked at you like you as if you had just asked me to circumcise myself with an airline spork.

Not happening.

But as it turns out, I can.

And did…many times.

In fact, not only are the 3 minute planks somewhat easy now but I also capped out in my last week at 186 push-ups in a 3 minute period.

Yes, 186 push-ups.

Look at the last weeks results:

pushups

Never in my wildest dreams!

But push-ups and planks weren’t the only specific tortures on the daily menu, there were also squats, crunches, Russian Twist’s, and those stupid looking donkey kick things, all aimed at giving me swim, cycle and run specific strength while also minimizing my risk of injury in the coming months of training.

So the million dollar question then is, did it work?

Well, in 28 days I am now down 5lbs, so that’s goal #1 successfully accomplished.  Having said that, I am also putting in 12-14 hours a week of training between the three disciplines, including two sessions with the heavy iron and at least one yoga class so is that weight loss resulting from the daily core workouts specifically?

Well, that’s up in the air really, but they certainly helped.

The real proof in the pudding regarding this challenges’ success would be the improved core strength.  And here I have to say that, yes, there is a significant improvement.

Absolutely, without a doubt!

Not only are my swim workouts going well with my ability to hold pace over designed intervals but I am also managing 12-15 kilometers per week, but I am managing 4-5 hours weekly in the pool without feeling overly fatigued in my shoulders; no doubt a result of all those planks and push-ups.

Of course, I wills say that doing push-ups after swimming certainly sucks.

Likewise, my cycling strength has also improved with my ability to sustain a higher wattage on the bike during my Thursday night 90 minute tempo spins.  They’re not “easy” per se, but I can definitely get it done holding an average of 160-170 watts over 70-80 minutes.  Prior to this 28 Day Challenge by comparison, well, let’s just say that it’s a significant improvement.

To answer the question then “am I stronger?”

It’s a very emphatic yes!

Plus, after all those squats (56 minutes worth in the last 28 days if you want to be precise) you can practically crack walnuts on my ass.  In fact, I’m more or less walking down the street now like this:

Yeah, exactly like that.

So where do I go from here?  Am I going to continue on with the challenge or what?

Abso-fucking-lutely!

In fact, I’m now making this 28 Day Challenge, the “100 Day Challenge”.

However, I am going to tweak the program a little as well as revisit my goals.  The goals of building overall core strength and losing weight aren’t changing but to those I am now adding the following:

  1. Be able to hold a 5 minute plank.
  2. Perform 60 push-ups in 60 seconds.

I think both of those goals are reasonable.

I am also making a significant change on how I am approaching the allotted time intervals for my specific core exercises in that I am going to stop looking at accumulative time but instead, focus on number of reps within that time frame.  In other words, before I was stopping the clock if and when I needed a break and resuming it once I started again.  This means that I could take a dozen 10 second breaks during, say, my 3 minutes of push-ups as long as the entire 3 minutes on the clock was spent doing push-ups.  Maybe I understood this wrong in the initial instructions of the challenge but I now think that this was a mistake.  Instead, I’m now going to keep the clock running consecutively and see how many reps I can accomplish in that time frame.  This is going to force me then to reconsider a) how many breaks I take, and b) how long I spend recovering before getting back at it.

Consider it a new twist to the whole challenge just to keep it, shall we say, interesting.

Also, I am adjusting the actual exercises to keep it fresh.  I am continuing on with the planks, push-ups, crunches and Russian Twists, but in lieu of those dumbass donkey kick things, I am adding some exercises recommended to me eons ago by Dr. Kristen Burr at Legacy Health and Performance that have since fallen by the wayside, namely bridges (quads/butt), and one-legged stands on a balance disc (calf and foot).  I’m still working all the same muscle groups, just using different exercises to target them.

And one last thing, I am giving myself permission to take at least one day off a week.  After all, if a day is aimed at being a “recovery day”, then it should be a 100% recovery day and not a semi-recovery day in that I must maintain a commitment to something else.

It’s a challenge after all, not a job.

So, here is my next months’ worth of routine heading towards the new goals:

Week 1:

  • 2.5 minutes plank
  • 1 minute push-ups
  • 1 minute lunges (each side)
  • 1 minute one-legged stand on balance disc (each side)
  • 1 minute bridges (w/ medicine ball)
  • 1 minute abs
  • 1 minute waist (Russian Twists)
  • 2.5 minutes plank

Week 2:

  • 3.5 minutes plank
  • 2 minutes squats
  • 3 minutes abs
  • 2 minutes bird dogs
  • 2 minutes waist (Russian Twists)
  • 2 minutes lunges (each side)
  • 2 minutes push-ups
  • 1 minutes V-sit (“Boat pose”)

Week 3 (same as Week 1), Week 4 (same as Week 2).

It all started last Friday, promptly at 3:01pm when I opened my email and saw a message from the Event Director of the Subaru EPiC Dartmouth Triathlon casually stating (as if nothing odd was transpiring):

You are receiving this email because you were registered for the 2016 Subaru EPIC Dartmouth Triathlon, and deferred your entry to the 2017 event.

I am going to attempt to transfer the amount you paid back into your hands electronically, but want to confirm that these are all still good addresses.

So send me a reply, so I will know this address works, and can send your refund.

My heart sunk.

This was me:

patrick-stewart-says-hed-reprise-his-role-of-captain-jean-luc-picard

Oh shit, here we go again.

If you recall, my planned Ironman was canceled last year due to road closures (click HERE).  I chose to take this as a sign, deferred my entry to the next year, and opted to focus on other goals, namely assisting with the SunRype Tri-Kids group for the summer.  And I’m glad I did as it’s ultimately a very rewarded experience, one that took my family out west to the Okanagan Valley, Calgary and then all over Ontario making kids triathlon dreams come true.  I (we) will be doing it again this summer as well.

However, it was the first year I didn’t compete in a single triathlon all summer and I realized that while the recovery was likely well needed and much enjoyed, I missed the thrill of completion and looked forward to getting back to business in 2017.  So, come October of last year it was back to the task at hand of kicking ass and taking names.

The EPiC Triathlon Challenge Facebook page was making semi-regular updates on the improved road conditions which only further whetted my appetite to race.  Once again, I was developing high hopes that this race would truly be an epic experience.

Until I received that recent email, that is.  Needless to say, it was not a welcome intrusion on the day.

As it turns out, the EPiC Triathlon Challenge had been cancelled uh-gain!

FML.

Here’s the official announcement/rationalization as provided by the Event Director:

Dear 2017 EPIC Triathlon Registrant,

When we lost our cycle route, and had to postpone the Subaru EPIC Dartmouth Triathlon in the Spring of 2016, we were on track for our best year ever (in terms of numbers of competitors).  At that time we didn’t know how being forced to take a year off would affect registration for the 2017 race:  Would we have even more registrants for 2017 from pent up demand, or would we have less from loss of momentum?

EPIC 2016 continued without the long distance triathlon, and the overall EPIC event had it’s best year ever!  We set record numbers in the EPIC Canadian Runs (becoming the 3rd largest Canada Day run in the country, plus adding a new Half and Quarter marathon).  We set record numbers in the EPIC Kids triathlon, record numbers in the EPIC Swim, and started a new adult Try-A-Tri.  Even without the long distance triathlon, we had the largest total number of participants ever – to the pleasure of the City and our Sponsors.

Immediately following the 2016 event, we opened registration for 2017 EPIC Kids for just one week…  57 kids signed up in the first 48 hours – all for a race 350 days away!

On the run side, excitement for 2017 and Canada 150 means registration for the EPIC Canadian runs will again be strong this year (now 5 race distances over three days, with the EPIC Double, the EPIC Triple and the new 3-day, 4-event, EPIC Marathon – 42.2k over three days).

Unfortunately, that same enthusiasm just has not materialized for the 2017 long distance events.  We had more kids register for our 2017 kids event in that first 48 hours registration was open, than new registrants for our 2017 long distance triathlon in the first six months between July and December.  Therefore, we have made the not-easy decision to focus 2017 on these growing events, and wrap up the long distance triathlon portion of the EPIC Weekend.

We know this news will be disappointing to those of you who did commit to the 2017 race.  Our entire team shares in that disappointment.

We know that the quality of the event has been there – from medals and swag, to meals, to medical services, to photo and video, to support on course.  We also know the experiences of the participants, lives changed, goals reached, and a huge amount raised by our participants for charity (over $135,000).

Yet, we never hit critical mass with this event – meaning registration fees never covered the cost of producing the event.  Each year we’ve found ways to continue, and to gather funds to subsidize the athletes – hoping that numbers would grow to the point where it could be self supporting.  Ironically, the events that are experiencing great growth, and that will continue for 2017 and beyond? Are those events that were initially started to share costs with, and subsidize, the long-distance triathlon.

Perhaps the EPIC Triathlon will be re-imagined in a different format in a few years time, or perhaps we will just have the memories.  In either case, it’s been fun, and a LOT of great times.  Those of you receiving this email were part of making EPIC happen, and if there were simply more like you eager to join us, the event would have continued for many, many years.

We have shut off registration, and are calculating refunds.  It’s a bit of a process, and some shuffling back and forth between us and Events.com (the registration host), but the goal is to have all refunds processed and back in to your hands by the end of January.

We hope that you will still join us for one of the other EPIC events this Canada Day Weekend 2017.  Canada150 is the biggest Canada Day that most of us will ever experience, and we’d still love to have you join us on the shores of Lake Banook for Canada Day Weekend 2017.

Now go do something EPIC!

What was my EPIC reaction?

I cried…epically, of course.

It felt like the triathlon gods had forsaken me and maybe this whole Ironman thing just wasn’t meant to be.  I was now faced with the same problem as the previous year, I had planned out our entire summer around this event meaning I had made other commitments, namely the SunRype Tri-Kids, and I hate  breaking promises.

This well and truly sucked.

EPiCally, even.

So while I had my own epic pity party, Kelly went on line and started looking for other opportunities.  However, most of the events she found either had closed their registration (ie. filled up) or were situated on a weekend that I already had a SunRype event planned.  Also, I am loathe to do my peak long distance training in the absolute worst (ie. hottest) point of the summer.  Fuck, no!  And seeing as how I’d already been down this path before last year, I started to give in that my 2017 Ironman simply wasn’t going to happen…maybe never.

I’m going to pause the story here for a moment to tell you that having the carpet yanked out from underneath you after you’ve already put in several months of training (not to mention the money into a proper training schedule provided by a coach) really, really sucks.

But having it happen twice?

tony-fuggedaboutit

FML x 2.

Then I found an event put on the HITS Triathlon Series (click HERE), located in the Hudson Valley of New York state (only a 6 hour drive away) on July 8th, only one week after the anticipated EPiC Challenge was to be held on July 2nd.  The website didn’t look very detailed or enticing but, hey, an Iron distance event is an Iron distance event right?  The challenge is still there.

So I did a little digging and read this on the event website:

The Hudson Valley is a top 20 destination in the world. A top destination deserves a top race! Introducing HITS Hudson Valley, NY July 9 at Williams Lake.

Less than 90 minutes from NYC lies the perfect setting for a perfect race. You’ll swim is in the pristine spring-fed Williams Lake, bike to the majestic Ashokan Reservoir and run on the historic Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

That doesn’t sound too bad, right?

I also Googled the area and it does look pretty scenic.  So, yeah, maybe this wasn’t such a bad option after all.

And looking at the results from previous years, I also had a real chance of “competing” and placing well.  Sure there aren’t two thousand participants to compete against but, really, when can I ever possibly say that I had a real chance to podium in an Iron distance event?  Likely never, that’s when.  And I know that this is kind of an “ego-licious” thing to think, but I’d really like to be able to say that just once.

The other bonus to this event is that it wouldn’t also mean that I’d have to cancel any of my planned summer SunRype commitments.

And that  is truly EPiC.

So after receiving my prompt refund from the canceled Subaru event (kudo’s to them for being so professional) I signed up, and now it’s “So long Dartmouth, and hello Hudson Valley!”

It’s back on for 2017.

I will have another exciting announcement to make shortly in relation to this upcoming season, but for the time being it seems that my future Ironman status has been rejuvenated once again for the summer.

Time to get back at ‘er.

Today marks the halfway point in my 28 Day Challenge I assumed at the beginning of the year (click HERE).  I figured then that this deserves a little update on how things are progressing thus far.  Don’t worry though, I’m not going to slip in any more gratuitous fat pictures.

Well, not in this post anyway.

To review, my goals with this challenge were twofold:

  1. Improved core strength
  2. A start at losing some weight

So let’s begin with the first week, shall we?

The first seven days of the program (click HERE) called for a 2 minute plank to kick start off the whole routine.  Initially I didn’t think this was going to be too difficult as I do planks fairly regularly already.  However, what I learned – and very quickly I might add – is that what I think constitutes itself as a second is actually much faster (much, much faster) than it actually is when being ticked down digitally on the tablet I had in front of me to keep proper time.   I thought I could hold a plank for at least a whole minute, but in “Terry time”, that’s actually 43 seconds.   I did hang on for a full 60 seconds, but my shoulders more or less collapsed in on themselves at that point and I had to take a 15-20 second break before resuming the 2nd minute.

Yes, I stopped and restarted the clock while doing so.

In fact, it wasn’t until the 4th day that I was actually able to hold a plank for the full 2 minutes and, even then, just barely.

Core strength = improving.

Next, the routine called for 1 minute worth of push-ups.  Again, I wasn’t fretting too much as I do these now too.  In fact, I can snap off about 20 or so push-ups at a go until I’m fatigued enough that I have to take a break.  Thing is, that’s only 30 seconds…I still had another 30 seconds to go.  So, basically, my first 20 military precision push-ups were soon reduced to a slow, pained Sisyphean effort.  And, yeah, I had to take a 15 second break in the middle too.

My ego was definitely taking a beating.

However, the good news with the push-ups is that every day I made progress with the number I could knock off in that 60 minute time period.

Take a look at the first week’s push-up tally:

week-1

I’m pretty happy with that.  While I still needed to take a 15 seconds break in the middle I’m still pleased that I improved my overall push-up count by nearly 20 reps in just a single week.

Booyah!

The other routines called for 1 minute each of abs (using Kelly’s Swiss Ball in a fashion I’ve seen other triathletes use before – click HERE), birddogs, squats, Russian Twists, and whatever the heck it is you call this crazy maneuver:

absbutt

None of these posed too much problem, nor was I attempting to improve in number or duration so much as I was just trying to focus on doing it right.

And for the record, I took more than 15 seconds of break between each minute interval of exercise.  I needed it, believe me, and I doubt most people starting from scratch will be able to continue on with only this short period of rest.  I don’t think this has much to do with the overall routine so I’m not too bothered.  It’s not like I left, went and had a coffee and came back 45 minutes later but, yeah, 15 seconds was too short a break to be able to continue.

The only real sucky thing was that the routine also called to end the session with another 2 minute plank.

FML.

After the first 2 minute plank and the series of push-ups, and crazy abs/butt thing, my shoulders were pretty well toast, meaning that this full second 2 minute plank was only ever successfully accomplished on the very last day of Week 1 making me able to successfully hold 2 x 2 minute planks.

Success nonetheless.

Enter Week 2:

The second week was separated into 2 sets, the first set beginning with a 3 minute plank (FFS).  Now I can’t accurately relate what kind of fucked up contortions my mind acrobatics instantly started to conjure up in the ‘ol brain circus going on in my head at the point when I read three minutes.  How the fuck?  At the very least, I figured I could manage the first 2 minutes and then maybe a little more before needing a rest to complete the rest and, that’s true – I did – once and once only.  That’s right, folks!  On only Day 2 of the second week I banged out my first 3 minute plank, like…ever.   And a true three minutes at that!  So I guess suffering through those 2nd 2 minute planks in the first week were really working and I was now really beginning to see the real core improvement I was hoping for.

The other shitty thing was that all the minute intervals were now three minute intervals, not just the plank.  That means my 60 seconds of push-ups were now 180 seconds worth of push-ups and my 60 seconds of abs were now 180 seconds of crunches, et cetera and so forth.

God help me.

Anyway, after the first minute of push-ups, I was more or less reduced to wheezing like a dolphin with an itchy blowhole.  And I certainly needed more than a single 15 seconds break in the middle.  In fact, by the two minute point I was more or less doing 10 push-ups, taking a 10 second break, doing 10 push-ups, taking a 10 second break, repeat, until the end of the whole 3 minutes and trying not to pass out.  Not exactly ideal but again, what really matters is that the full three minutes were spent doing push-ups (give or take a second to get back in position after restarting the digital stopwatch on the tablet) as I was diligent to stop/start the time accurately.

Even still, again the results were impressive:

week-2

That’s 100 to 157  push-ups in seven days constituting over a 50% improvement in strength.  AND, towards the end of the second week I didn’t need as many breaks either.  Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t suddenly turned into Charles Atlas or anything – I still needed them – but not as many of them.

WINNING!

The other three minute intervals of squats, crunches, Russian Twists and nutso donkey kick things were nothing special to write home about other than trying to support myself in the downward dog pose while doing my abs/butt kicks was challenging after popping off almost 160 push-ups, let me tell you!

I couldn’t feel myself getting stronger though.

Now, as for the overall verdict:  after two weeks (so far) my core and physical upper body strength have certainly improved.  On the bathroom scale (broken as it may be), I have lost 3lbs.  Now whether this is in direct relation to this particular workout or the fact that I haven’t been putting away the late night bags of Ring-Ding’s the way I used to is certainly debatable, but I will still take this as another success regardless.

Shit, this whole thing is just crazy enough that it might just work after all.  In fact, the web page where I found this challenge says this:

If you do everything correctly, you will achieve amazing results in just a month and, as a bonus, develop a habit of doing this simple ten-minute set of exercises every day. And if you want to improve your body even more, then doubling the effort is all you need to do!

Now I don’t know about the whole “doubling the effort” part, that shit is just KAR-azy  talk, but I can definitely see myself continuing with this routine or something similar afterwards as I no longer really dread, nor have to talk myself into doing it.

The only real challenge (and a small one at that) is just holding myself accountable every day to actually making the time for it and doing it.  But, hey, I’m already half way there and so far, so good.  There’s really no reason to make this a part of my everyday routine.

But better not get ahead of myself, I still have two more weeks to go and that’s an entirely different blog post.

It’s nearly New Year’s and, of course, the Interweb is lighting up with all the new and trendy “30 Day Challenges” for all those people who are looking to improve their fitness in 2017 to faun over.  Planks, sit-ups, squats, burpees, crunches, yoga, abs, crash diets, you name it, the Interweb is a virtual orchard of 30 Day Challenge ideas to choose from, all guaranteeing to trim fat, burn calories, maximize strength and otherwise contribute to you becoming a better you.

Lord knows what the “Little Black Dress Challenge” is but I’m sure not clicking on that shit.

Anyway, typically I would just call shenanigans on challenges such as these as my Bullshit Meter is approximately the size of Texas, so I have never actually taken on any of these challenges.  It’s not like I’m particularly sedentary anyway what with all the swimming, running and running I do now.

However, I’m currently on day seven of no running thanks to a shin issue and my cycling has been slim to none this week seeing as how it’s the holidays and we’re busy, and I’m stressing about all the extra holiday pounds I’ve inevitably tacked on since the beginning of the month.  Let’s just say that for the past 2-3 weeks while I have still been working out, I’ve also been stirring life’s cocktail a little, shall we say, vigorously.  In other words, I’ve approached my holiday diet this season with all the reckless abandon of DJ Khalid confronted with a horse trough of fried chicken and now I’ve dove headfirst into my custom made pity pool.  So I feel like, maybe, one of these challenges wouldn’t be such a bad thing to kick start the whole training program back into overdrive come January 1st.

And then there it was, proudly boasting over my Facebook feed (thanks Vilija!):  “7 Simple Exercises That Will Transform Your Body in Just 4 Weeks” (click HERE).

In a moment of weakness I clicked on the link (provided above).

The premise of the challenge is to spend 10 minutes a day performing seven different exercises, all of which I can do at home if need be, that will ultimately “change how you look in as little as four weeks”.   The site also suggests that “all you need is determination and ten minutes a day”.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a total sucker here and taking a much too enthusiastic sip from the barrel-sized cup of purple Kool-Aid that this site is peddling, but that shit is speaking my language.

For reals!

But being the stubborn idiot I am, I almost exited out from the website anyway as my inner skeptic still mentally told the author to go suck a fart.  But seeing as how my curiosity had been piqued just a tad, I decided to scroll down the page anyway just to see what these seven miracle exercises actually were and to my surprise, they were all regular exercises that I use now in my current gym routine…when I actually go that is.  All these drills are also been highly recommended in order to improve one’s core strength and thereby benefiting one’s running and cycling (which is why I started doing them in the first place).  Also, I have an extra yoga mat and a medicine ball here at home – two actually – so what excuse do I have for not actually using them?

None!

Unfortunately, I haven’t hit the gym (or my functional strength routine here at home for that matter) in over three weeks meaning that my current core program is next to nonexistent at the moment; a total dumpster fire of excuses and inactivity.

Essentially, it’s dead in the water.

Suddenly this 28 day, 10 minutes a day challenge started to light up my brain pan like a Christmas tree.

Maybe it was a sign and on the odd chance that this is the Homer Simpson green-glowing rod that starts the nuclear reactor, what harm could possibly come of my actually giving it the ‘ol college effort?

So what do I really want to get out of it?  It’s not likely that in just 28 days I’m suddenly going to have a sculpted body that someone would feel inspired to paint on the nose of a B-52 bomber.  No.  But I certainly would like to acquire two things:

  1. Improved core strength
  2. A start at losing some weight

I think that’s a reasonable goal.  It’s not like the challenge is guaranteeing me anything other than “amazing results in just a month and, as a bonus, develop a habit of doing this simple ten-minute set of exercises every day”.  Okay, so “amazing” is a bit subjective but I’d generally be happy with something…anything…resembling improvement.

The question now is how do I measure this success after the 28 days?

Well.  That’s certainly a tougher nut to crack.

I guess I would like to see a loss in weight.  Of course, I also intend on improving my diet some so it will be hard to say beyond a shadow of a doubt that this program 100% completely initiated to that loss or not, but I think it would be a safe assumption to make that it surely contributed.  So currently, I weight 218lb* (*groan*) and I will weight myself again in 28 days to see what improvement has been made.

Strength is an even harder thing to measure, but here’s a photo of my current core section that we can compare at the end of 28 days (be mindful of not staring directly into the fat).

Done gagging yet?

Clearly there is ample room for improvement and, yes, I know, my body looks like a melting ice cream cone so, hopefully, noticing an improvement will be easy to do if this challenge is genuinely successful.

At the very least, I will look like a semi-melted ice cream cone.

The real proof in the pudding will be in how it affects (effects?) my running cycling and, potentially, my swimming.  This unfortunately will be completely subjective but given that my running is currently lagging, I would hope to see some improvement in either my average pace at the end of one of my weekly fartlek runs, or a perceived improvement on how badly they suck (ie. feel) while doing them.

So it’s on.  I’m going to do this…beginning tomorrow (New Year’s Day).  It’s only 10 minutes a day. How hard can this really be?  Maybe I’m just being a total Code 3 wack-a-doo here but, seriously, I couldn’t give a flying fuck right now.  I need to do something in order to feel like I’m back on the right path towards my 2017 Ironman endgame.  I seriously need to put down the hot pocket, stop taking batting practice on my kidneys, and commit to a new short term goal that I to sink my teeth into and eventually stomp into the ground like a late season gewürztraminer.

So, ladies and gentlemen, faithful readers:

You expect to hear from me again in 28 days.

*I suspect that my bathroom scale if totally FUBAR-ed and it’s actually not that bad (closer to 207lb.) but I will use this scale in 28 days for consistency sake.