Posts Tagged ‘Diet’

Tightwad Triathlete #11

Posted: May 31, 2017 in Financial, Nutrition
Tags: , ,

I have just survived my first four week block of my Ironman build and while there have definitely been some setbacks and failing points (as is part of the whole journey) I have come out the other side more or less unscathed and successful.  It was during this period that one of my biggest challenges from the past reared its ugly head once again… namely adequate fueling and nutrition.

This has always been a huge challenge for me.  Most notably (and recently), it cost me a decent outing at last years Around the Bay 30k event (click HERE) where I totally bonked and died a horrible painful death in the back 10k worth of hills.

Yup.  1 cup of cluster; 2 cups of fuck.

Never…

Again.

But, hey, sometimes you just have to chuck these experiences in the “fuck it bucket” and instead use them as a learning opportunity.

And as I am now in my big distance builds, nailing this fueling and nutrition thing down is 100% crucial.  Not just in order to accomplish the big workouts, but so that I have an absolutely sound strategy in place for my Ironman race itself that enables me to perform to my full potential.

It’s crazy how fast my morning caterpillars of “can do’s” turn into the beautiful and mysterious “fuck it fly” by the mid-point of my workout if I haven’t fueled properly.

Now, I understand all the available products on the market: gels, chews, power bars, and the like.  And while I’m not disputing the validity and effectiveness any of these products, who the hell can afford all this stuff?

Think about it.  For a 4-5 hour bike ride, I’m going to need approximately 2000-3000 calories so when you do the math by breaking down these calories into, say, GU gels which provide approximately 100 calories, that’s potentially 20-30 gels.   And at approximately $2.00 a pop, that’s potentially a $40-$60 training day.  And then there’s the long run, the time trials, the long swims, etc., over weeks and weeks of training.

Holy shit!

You practically need to be Daddy-fucking-Warbucks to afford that.  Hell, why not just fuel with Beluga caviar and crystal flutes full of Dom Perignon?

By the time I arrive at the starting line I’d inevitably be this guy:

homeless man

What I’m delicately trying to say is that I’m a cheap bastard (click HERE).

In past experimentation’s I have used dried dates (click HERE).  But even still, that’s a shitload of dried dates to be eating for the course of a long workout.  And one can only have so much fiber before one starts to run into, how do you say… really serious issues?

Note:  that fart isn’t really a fart and you might have to leave a Hoboken Squat Cobbler by the side of the road.

There has to be a better solution.

So I started looking at what exactly does my body need?  Essentially, once it starts going (assuming I’ve already had a healthy breakfast or feeding prior to heading out) it needs quick burning carbs to continually stoke the fire and keep the engines running.

If only there was somewhere you could go to find plentiful options of quick burning carbohydrate sources?

Enter Bulk Barn to the rescue.

Behold:

bulk-barn-inside-3

When it comes to choices of quick burning carbs, your local Bulk Barn is essentially the equivalent of Shangri-La, Valhalla, Nirvana, El Dorado and the Garden of Eden all packaged up in a flimsy clear plastic baggie.

It’s a literal plethora of Swedish berries, fish, jelly beans, jube jubes, wine gums, and an entire Noah’s Ark of gummy critters of all shapes and sizes.

DAH-ROOL.

Yes, yes, I hear you all crying out:  “But Terry, that’s not healthy!” 

So let me be 100% perfectly clear here:  I do not give a fig newton about “healthy” when I’m fueling for long workouts.  All I care about is that it’s convenient to access and eat, it keeps me going, and it’s tasty.

And candy just happens to check all those boxes. Unlike honey dates and chocolatey protein bars, chewy candy does not melt.  If you’ve ever had tried to pry open (and eat) a baggie of chocolaty goop that has melted over the course of a 2 hour run, you’ll understand.  At best, most chewy candy might get a bit soft but that just makes it easy to scarf down and it’s easily packaged and retrieved from little baggies which are also conveniently available at Bulk Barn.

Win.

It also has the four essential things that I basically need to keep cycling or running:  calories, sugar, carbs and sodium.  I mean, really, the idea is to rapidly bring up your blood sugar without causing GI issues (ie. digests quickly).

Candy does that!

Here’s the nutritional breakdown for a single Swedish berry:

Swedish Berry

So a small handful of, say, 7 Swedish berries would equate to 91 calories, 14 grams of sodium, and 21 grams each of carbs and sugar.  You know, that’s pretty close to what I would have spent on a single GU gel…except much cheaper, and much tastier (my opinion).  AND, I don’t have to stick to just Swedish berries either.  No, sir!  I can pre-prepare my little baggies with whatever type of candy I want meaning that every mouthful every 15-20 minutes is something to look forward to.  Variety is the spice of life after all, right?

And it works!

Well, for me anyway.

Oh, and Peter Sagan also swears by them as well.  And if it’s good enough for one of the best long distance cyclists in the world currently, then you bet your sweet bippy it’s damn good enough for me.

I feel like a rolling Willy Wonka factory on my long bike rides.

Of course, you don’t necessarily want to fully rely on candy as your fuel source, you still need “real fuel” as a nutritional base – especially during long workouts.  However, you can top off your glycogen stores with candy if you feel your energy levels dropping, or if you need a boost to keep up with powerful surges, particularly in the last hour of a three-plus hour effort.

For the purposes of getting in real fuel, I have resorted to using something else: Nutella, or as I like to call it, “Nectar of the Gods”.

As with candy, I realize that it’s not “healthy”.  A two-tablespoon (37 gram) serving of Nutella contains 200 calories including:  99 calories from 11 grams of fat (3.5g of which are saturated) 80 calories from 21 grams of sugar.   Oh, and there’s also 2 grams of protein (slow burning fuel) to boot.  Not necessarily significant, of course, but it’s worth mentioning.

However, all I really give a shit about is whether or not it keeps me going?

And to this I say:  Abso-fucking-lutely!

But how do I manage to consume Nutella while cycling/running you ask?  I mean, it’s not like I can simply bring a jar of Nutella and a soup spoon with me is it?

Well, my ingenious (if I do say so myself) solution is make these little “Nutella bombs”.

IMG_1748

Bonus marks for having a Minion.

Basically, I just heap two- tablespoons of the good shit into the corner of a plastic baggie (also conveniently found on the cheap at Bulk Barn), tie the baggie off and, BAM!, the perfect little portion of hazelnut goodness.  All I have to then do then is pull one of these “Nutella bombs” out of my bento bag or fuel belt, bite the corner out of the baggie and squeeze it like a lime wedge on dollar beer night into my piehole.

Done.

From an ordinary 750 gram jar of Nutella ($4.99 at Bulk Barn) essentially equates to approximately 20 Nutella bombs.

That’s only 24 cents a bomb.

Booyah!

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.

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).

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.

Now that the race season is practically over, I’m feeling somewhat at a loss.

For the past seven years I have competed in several triathlons, running races and long distance bike challenges.  This year with the cancellation of my planned Iron-distance event (click HERE), I didn’t compete at all…like, at all.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I competed one 30k running race…and I totally sucked out (click HERE).

Needless to say, it hasn’t exactly been my finest year fitness-wise.

I mean, I’ve had a great summer – don’t get me wrong!  I helped run 10 kids triathlon all over Ontario and British Columbia with the SunRype Tri-KiDS series and I completed another 10k Swim for Strong Kids…even though that wasn’t my finest hour either.  What I have done well enough though is drink lots of beer and consume stupid amounts of BBQ…like a champ!

Now as I’m beginning to get squared away mentally for the pending 2017 challenges which – *knock on wood* – will mark my triumphant return to both triathlon and a healthy lifestyle, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I actually ended up going down this road in the first place.

How did I get here?

What can I learn from this?

I guess I’m preparing to go all Rocky IV here by going back to basics, beginning with my diet.

This post then is the culmination of about three weeks worth of reflecting on how I did end up at this juncture in my life as well as what I’ve learned, as a means of using that to motivate me to do the right things again for the next 11 months leading up to July 2nd, 2017…my (hopeful) return to Ironman.


 

It should first be known that I don’t have anything particularly against cheeseburgers.  I still have them from time to time and I still list ‘finding the perfect cheeseburger’ on the Interests portion of my professional resume.

It’s just that I don’t eat them for breakfast anymore.

You see, I am a fat person much in the same way that ‘once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic’ and cheeseburgers were once an acceptable meal anytime of the day.  Salad was what you put on the cheeseburger, but things have changed drastically since those days.  There was no such thing as ‘Healthy Options’ on restaurant menus, nor did we have ‘Blue Menu’s’ at the local superstore.

It’s doubtful that I would’ve cared less even if there had been.

I’ve been sensitive about my weight ever since high school.  In grade school I was skinny – ‘athletic’ almost.  Back then, I even managed to win the  “Male Athlete of the Year” award in Grade Six upon graduating Maplecrest Public School; not necessarily because of any athletic prowess per se, but because I simply participated in absolutely everything – albeit poorly.  Volleyball, basketball, cross-country, soccer, etc. – I sucked at it all equally.  Of course, it was more of a ‘Sportsmanship’ award than anything else as I can’t ever remember winning anything particularly important or even placing in anything above dead last in any sporting meet or event, but Lord knows I tried hard.

Outside of school I enjoyed recreational swimming, baseball and badminton, all of which I fared pretty well, especially badminton, but never to any significant degree.  But then I got my first job as a pre-teenager, a paper route and, with it, a means of instant income and a rather compulsive addiction to chocolate bars so that by the time high school came around I had the inflated physique (and likely the blood sugar level) of the Michelin Man.  From that point forward it was ‘So long sports!  Hello Snickers bars!’  I still played badminton with a certain amount of skill, but my only other ‘athletic’ endeavor in high school was participating on the curling team, mostly because there was a lot of sitting in between ends.  So while everyone else was out making touchdowns, hitting dingers and sinking buckets…I was sweeping rocks and sitting on benches.  Not exactly the stuff that true jocks are made of.

Eating junk food was where I really shined.

Likewise, I wish I could tell you that I have fond memories of spending lots of quality time with my mother and grandmother in the kitchen learning healthy family recipes but, in actuality, I was usually too preoccupied in the living room watching Loony Tunes.

Essentially, this was me every time dinner was called:

giphy1

I could do the basics I suppose; toast bread, pour cereal, spread peanut butter over crackers and, what have you – hardly anything that one might qualify as ‘fine cuisine’.  When I was old enough to use the stove I could boil water for hot dogs or Kraft Dinner; skills that would serve me well into my adult life.  We ate well enough as a family, despite not always having the ample budget to do so.  In fact, how my mother continuously fed our family of five as well as she did must have been akin to Jesus feeding the multitudes on five loaves of bread and two fish – it’s just that I didn’t play much of a part in the whole process as I did at turning my nose up at what was placed in front of me…unless it was dessert, of course.  It was the late 1970’s and my mom was in charge of the kitchen as were most mom’s of that particular generation, and Rule #1 was our getting lost to leave her to work which suited me fine given that, mostly, I was pretty lazy.

These poor eating habits continued on when I left home to attend university where, instead of following the recommended meal plans provided by the residence cafeterias (if residence meal plans could ever be considered as ‘healthy’ that is), I gravitated towards Taco Bell…every day.  I could consume my body weight in soft bean burritos.  I probably did more often that I’d like to admit.  Despite playing badminton recreationally once or twice a week (thank God for my wicked drop shop which spared me having to run on many an occasion), the quantities of crappy food and beer far outweighed whatever calories I was burning off on the courts.

More often than not, I could be found at any one of the university bars on campus indulging in a liquid lunch and, maybe, a plate of fries instead of engaging in anything healthy or active.  By the time I left university I was well on my way to a severe weight problem, not to mention a liver that probably looked like a discarded sponge.

I also started to smoke pot…a lot.

I like to refer to these years as “The Fattening”.

The next few years were similarly unkind on my body.  After I graduated university I moved away to London, U.K. to work in British-style pubs where my diet mainly existed solely on peanut butter and kebobs.  Lord knows, the English aren’t well known for their healthy cuisine.  At least they weren’t back then as this was still the pre-Jamie Oliver era.  My weekly paycheck (or what was left over after rent anyway) was primarily reserved for beer and cigarettes.  So fruit and vegetables were seldom ever factored in unless you consider ‘mushy peas’ or ‘chips’ a vegetable.  My daily meals were often compromised of whatever leftovers I could scrounge up in the kitchen after service.  This is no one’s fault but my own, and my managers were very nice and accommodating in allowing me to get away with this as it wasn’t really their obligation to feed me, but my priorities were all eschewed after years of poor lifestyle decisions.

By the time I returned home eight years later I had ballooned out to well over 275 lbs.

Even when I returned home, this poor eating style continued and was complimented by many, many other unhealthy choices as I continued working in the local bars and restaurants.  ‘Dinner’ had become whatever I managed to throw down my throat on my break and, maybe, something else later in the wee hours of the morning on the way home again (think: MacDonald’s, Burger King, or whatever else happened to still be open for Take-Out).  By now, this had all become learned behavior over the years; ‘cooking’ was about as alien to me as advanced nuclear physics.  Seriously, I’d have about as much luck in making a simple casserole as I would have of stumbling across the formula for cold water fusion; I was that hopeless at preparing my own meals.  If it hadn’t been either pre-prepared or pre-packaged I had absolutely no freakin’ idea what to do with it as, by that time, I had developed a full on love affair with high calorie, fatty food.  Fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet were almost unheard of and had taken on a near mythical status in my life, like unicorns, leprechauns and the Loch Ness Monster.

Later, I managed to quit the service industry altogether and bumped around from job to job until I ended up working in a call center, mostly because it was air-conditioned and I could sit for eight hours a day.  Besides, I had excellent communication skills so solving customer disputes and handling billing problems over the phone didn’t pose much thought or difficulty.  It was an ‘easy paycheck’ involving next to zero physical activity or exercise.

Part and parcel with this new employment, however, was my becoming used to living out of the cafeteria vending machines, of which, pre-packaged microwave cheeseburgers were my favorite; breakfast, lunch or dinner.

I loved those cellophane-wrapped heart attacks-to-go.

Fortunately by this point, I had managed to quit smoking but I had just turned 30 years old, weighed approximately 320 lbs. and would break out into a sweat simply by walking to the corner store for a loaf of bread or, as in the case on this particularly fateful day, from the car to the front door at work.  After years of living poorly and making unhealthy lifestyle decisions, I had turned myself into a gelatinous blob of fat with no muscle whatsoever.  My personal self-esteem was practically non-existent and I still smoked copious amounts of marijuana every day in order to maintain my sanity in the face of it all.

Dating?

Impossible.

I was entering into middle age and I felt awful most of the time and, ultimately, I grew very bitter and angry at myself, not to mention the rest of the world.  I had, quite literally, become the ‘Fat and the Furious’.

Eventually, I had a bit of an epiphany.

Well, not so much an epiphany as it was a “moment”.

I very real and ugly moment.

It came while looking at my reflection in the front window at my place of employment.  I was sweating profusely and out of breathe; I was enormous, unkempt, and very unhealthy looking and I had only walked a short distance from the car.  Instead of going in, I just stood there in shock taking in the miserable looking behemoth staring back at me.  I felt terrible.  I was overcome with a profound sense of shame and disappointment.  How had I let things get to this point?  When did I become so fat and out of shape?  I decided then and there to pack it in for the day and went home.  Judging by my reflection, I was justified in taking a sick day as I was most certainly not well; physically or mentally.  It was while sitting on the couch at home that afternoon, smoking pot and eating a candy bar while feeling sorry for myself, that the ultimate decision was made.

Things needed to change.

Fast.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had taken the first significant step to changing the path of self-destruction.

I had no idea how I was going to manage this change but, finally, the initiative had hit me that I was going to do something…anything.  So where most people sign up for Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, or whatever fad diet program that happens to be occupying the majority of prime time air slots on the boob tube, or run out to purchase the latest, convenient, fold away, body sculpting piece of shit being hawked by the latest celebrity has-been…I started walking and, heaven’s forbid, eating more salad.

I still wasn’t a whiz in the kitchen, but I bought some healthy eating cook books from the local secondhand bookstore and started to bookmark basic recipes that even a chimpanzee could muster up.  It was a start.

It was something.

At first I simply walked around the neighborhood for an hour or so and there are some very unflattering photographs of me from around this period.  It was amazing to me how little I really knew about the area I had lived in for the majority of my life.  Now I was discovering what lay at the end of certain side-streets, or laneways that I had never bothered to turn down before, and what pretty landscapes lay in hiding along remote walking trails and local parks.  Little by little, these neighborhood walks grew increasingly longer in both duration and distance and I completed them faithfully every night after getting home from work.  I enjoyed these ambles, in the beginning anyway, and they were every bit as challenging then as some of the crazy workouts I attempt nowadays, yet I still had no invocation of ever completing a triathlon.

That notion hadn’t even begun to formulate itself in my mind yet.

I started to plan out my meals with a little more consideration as to what I was actually putting into my body.  I began to make the connection that whatever I ate that day was directly related to the quality of the workout – however basic  – that I would take on later that day.

I also learned another, well, not so pleasant side effect of suddenly switching to a healthy lifestyle after nearly two decades of self-indulgence; real food makes you poop…a lot.

Who knew?

And I’m not talking about the usual evacuations I was accustomed to when eating all that high calorie, greasy food either, I’m talking about huge spires of earthly-colored crap that would make most circus elephants envious.  Every time I needed to go to the bathroom I practically had to clear my afternoon schedule.

Let it never be said that getting healthy is a beautiful thing.

I remember one particular evening when the toilet in my meager apartment had clogged up after a rather glorious passing.  I attacked the drain with a plunger like I was grappling with the control stick of a plummeting B-52 bomber, but to no avail.   After three or four unsuccessful attempts to unblock the offending obstruction, not to mention cleaning up the three or four inevitable overflows, I decided to call in for back-up to my landlord who also conveniently lived on the main floor downstairs.  Unfortunately, he was still at work for the evening so I left a message and settled down on the couch for a nap.

Hey, pooping is hard business don’t’ cha know?

Later that evening when he returned home he immediately came upstairs for a looksee and after a few more unsuccessful “plunge and mop ups”, he too threw in the towel – quit literally actually – and offered to call a plumber in the morning.  It was late and he was tired, so dealing with plugged toilets I’m sure wasn’t exactly what he wanted to be doing.

Who could blame him?

Defeated, he left to go downstairs and shortly thereafter I heard a scream followed by a very vocal “Oh, shit!”  As it later turned out, more accurate words could not have been chosen.

I hurriedly raced downstairs to see what all the commotion was and upon reaching the bottom of the stairs, I saw him standing in the doorway to his apartment – frozen – with a look of pure horror on his face.  It still wasn’t immediately clear what had happened at that point, so I carefully maneuvered around him in the narrow passageway to sneak a peek inside.  The grizzly spectacle I was greeted with would have been on par with any murder crime scene.

It was gruesome indeed!

Bucketful’s of dirty toilet water had poured out from the ceiling just underneath where my bathroom would have been; all over his leather furniture, his home entertainment center, his, well, everything really.  Everything in the apartment was completely saturated with dank, smelly sewage.

It seems that the pipes in my bathroom had completely burst under the floor and released with it an absolute torrential tsunami of shit.  What was revealed later when all was said and done was that, being an old house, the bathroom pipes had literally exploded under the force of my massive meaty turds over the past few monthly.

Oops.

But it’s the truth; I was squeezing out these new Tyrannosaurus-sized turds on a very regular basis, the likes of which I’d never experienced before.  Think about it:  making healthier choices including eating foods with high fiber and more cruciferous vegetables was ultimately wreaking havoc on the poor outdated plumbing in the apartment.  One hundred year old drainage pipes were no match for my reenergized bowel apparently.

Thankfully, my landlord had the proper home insurance to cover such disasters and all would be rectified thanks to nearly three months’ worth of detailed renovations during which time he had to sleep on his sailboat.

All thanks to my new healthy lifestyle.

After nearly a year of sticking with the plan, through good times and smelly, I wasn’t quite so repulsed with the reflection I saw in passing windows during my daily walks but, there was still a long way to go in my mind.  I even started dating – albeit never for very long.  This was a huge breakthrough in and of itself just to know that someone could actually find me attractive.  Most exciting of all was that I could once again see my penis in the shower without the aid of a box periscope.

What can I say?

I’m all about small victories.

The time was also approaching I decided, to ratchet up the plan to the next level and included my first foray into what I considered ‘No Man’s Land’; the local gym.

Soon there would be no looking back.

(to be con’d…)

Two weekends ago I raced my first long distance event of the season, the Around the Bay 30k (click HERE  for this years results) in Hamilton, Ontario, except that I’ve been pretty quiet on the whole subject…until now.  In short, it was a complete debacle of epic proportions which has ultimately left me very disappointed and discouraged given all the hard work I’ve put into my run training over the past two months.

Seeing as how I finished over 20 minutes off my best time from two years ago (2:31:20), well, let’s just agree that it was a total shit show ending with me walk-slash-trotting at an abysmal pace for the final few kilometers.  In fact, as far as I’m concerned, this event should now be officially renamed the “Painful Shuffle Around the Bay 30k’.

But as the new coach keeps telling me, every failure comes with a new opportunity to learn and improve, meaning, now I’m stuck with the burning question that I’ve been dwelling on for the past two weeks:

What the fuck went so wrong?

The plan was not necessarily to go out and set a new personal best.  No, it was ideally just an ideal “training day” to get a sense how my over all run training has been faring, especially in regards to the whole quicker cadence thing (click HERE).  We agreed then that I should go out sparingly at a comfortable pace of 5:30min/km  for the first 5k, then begin to up my pace gradually over the next 15k or so, before unleashing the big dogs altogether and go for broke over the last 10k to the finish.

Easy enough, right?

Well, the first part of the plan went great and despite the adrenaline and rush of competition, I held myself back just as planned arriving at the 5k mark at almost the exactly anticipated time of 27:30, meaning that I was pretty much bang on my 5:30min/km pace perfectly.  At this point, I was experiencing no issues and was rather enjoying myself.  Well, aside from the fact that I way over dressed for the occasion and sweating like a complete bastard that is*.

But I digress…

After the first 5k I increased my pace by focusing on my “quick feet” just I have been practicing and my pace accelerated to fluctuating anywhere between 5:10-5:20min/km, or thereabouts, depending on the terrain, wind, hot babe runner in tight-tights, etc..  It was still a slower pace than that of my PB pace two years ago, but if I could keep that pace going and then some for the remainder of the race that would put me on a pretty even keel to finishing around the same finishing time having covered more distance in the end…quicker.

“So far, so good”, I thought.

“Yay me!”, even.

Then around the 18k mark the fatigue began setting in, even a little more than you might expect.  Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that running 18k in and of itself is no small feat (well, for me anyway), but this was a different feeling.  My energy began to sap from my body rapidly and all at the exact moment when those stupid long-ass hills started up in earnest along the dreaded North Shore Blvd. portion of the race.  In fact, these hills are what the race is known for.

I knew I was in trouble.

From there is was vicious downward spiral where my quads began to feel like they were being torn apart, and I developed a hot spot in right foot making my keeping any decent pace comfortable.  I knew that my shoes were a bit long in the tooth going in but I figured that they had at least one more long run in them.

Apparently, I was wrong.

By the half marathon mark, I was in big trouble.  From there, well, let’s just say it was a complete and total dumpster fire.  Mentally I had checked out, physically I was broken.  It started by my walking through the aid stations in order to give the burning sensation in my right foot some temporary relief and then graduated to alternating sporadically between a walk and a painful limp for the final few kilometers to the finish.

Here’s the whole shit show broken down pace-wise:

ATB Data

Yeah.

Not pretty is it?

I didn’t even want to collect my race medal when it was all said and done and instead of allowing the volunteer to place it valiantly around my neck as is customary, I snatched it out of her hand and quickly stuffed it in my race bag along with the token post-race banana and package of flatbread.  You’d think that she had just handed me porn, or something.

Fuck that.

Anyway, back to the question (blown shoes aside) – what went wrong?

Piecing together the day, it all started off pretty much like it does on any other given race morning.  One bowl of whole oats with brown sugar upon wake up, a toasted bagel and cream cheese about an hour later with the usual cup of coffee, and then starting about an hour before the start of the event I started nursing my premixed bottle of E-Load performance drink.

What I didn’t do however, was much fueling after that.  Once the race started I just got into my rhythm and blew through the aid stations as I hate jockeying around with 2000 other runners for a glass of whatever, so I tend to just move over to the right (or left) and carry on my way unencumbered.  And this was great for the first 15-18k, no issues.  I think the only thing I had to eat was a single dried honey date around the 7k and, maybe, the 13k mark.  By the time I had reached the hills, I was running on empty.

This was later explained to me by the coach:

“When you run out of glucose and glycogen in the muscles, your body switches from using fatty acids as fuel…to catabolizing muscle tissue for fuel.”

What this means is that when your body runs out of other sources of fuel, it will start to use its own muscle tissue for energy.  Isn’t that sexy?  This likely explains the “tearing” feeling I felt in my quads right around the two hour mark.  Obviously, this is not a normal condition, and your body will only start to use muscle tissue for energy under extreme conditions, such as if you are very sick (I was getting over the plaque I had contracted while in San Antonio two weeks before), severely malnourished or not consuming enough calories over an extended period of time to support normal body functions.

Terrific.

You see, every cell in your body needs energy to perform normal body functions such as moving, breathing, maintaining your heartbeat and healing damaged tissue.  And over the course of runner 30 kilometers, there’s lots of damaged tissue going on.  Normally, carbohydrates from your diet supply the types of sugar your body uses as its main source of energy.  To get enough sugar from your diet to supply your body with the energy it needs, approximately half of your daily calories need to come from proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  I likely had enough of these stored carbs from my early morning feedings and the previous evening’s meal.

During digestion, your body will break down those carbohydrates into simple sugars that are then converted to glucose, or blood sugar.  That resulting glucose travels in your blood to every cell in your body, where it is used to manufacture energy.  If you consume more sugar than your body needs for immediate energy (and Lord knows I enjoy my treats), some of the excess is converted into glycogen, a type of sugar that is stored in your muscle tissue.  If your body needs glucose, and no sugar is coming in from your diet, glycogen is released from your muscles and broken down to supply enough glucose for energy to last about half a day.

So when I failed to “stoke the fire”, per se, by replenishing those stores of glucose I had in my body before the race started by providing it with more regular quick burning stores of simple carbohydrates, my body more or less reverted to eating its own muscle tissue in an effort to get the necessary glycogen to keep me going.

So, yeah, great!

My body was basically cannibalizing itself for the last 10k.

Amazeballs.

So, what’s the learning opportunity?

EAT YOU STUPID BASTARD!

So going forward this is my new mission to figure out a proper fueling strategy for both before and  during my long workouts, especially now that I’m heading into my long bike training period as well.  During these training runs (and bikes, for that matter) I will need to begin experimenting more with what I am taking into my body, as well as how often, in order to be able to sustain the required energy level.

My issue with that though, is that I don’t necessarily want to spend the equivalent of the Gross National Product of a small underdeveloped country on gels and sporting supplements to do so.

But the dried honey dates just aren’t cutting it anymore.

Now, given that I “go long” at least twice a week (long, being over two hours), that’s a lot of expensive sporting gels.  Of course, I would definitely prefer real (cheaper) food.  But not only does that “real food” have to be the right type of quick burning fuel, but it also has to be easily portable to boot.  After all, to my knowledge, there is no catering service for long distance athletes that will agree to set up an elaborate fueling buffet station ever 5k or so along my predetermined workout route…is there?

Yeah.

Doubtful!

So let the learning commence…

*This is a long standing tradition I have with this event in my never being able – for whatever reason – to figure out how to dress appropriately for the occasion.