What to eat?

I made homemade granola with flax seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds and a few other odd things I typically would never eat.  I make salads for lunch with spinach, broccoli and numerous other healthy ingredients.  I don’t eat an entire bag of M&M’s at night after dinner.

Food is fun!  I love to cook and love to eat as well.  I also love chocolate and not in moderation.  Cooking is something I love to do and I don’t like changing recipes just to make it healthy.  I would rather work out longer, run more and do more reps to work off the extra calories than eat something “healthy.”  Trying to get into shape to run a 5k (3.1 miles) or a sprint distance triathlon just took determination.  I could will myself to the finish.  The goal was finish and have fun.  I was finishing, having fun and even losing weight.  See, my “Ben and Jerry’s while watching Biggest Loser” diet was working out just fine.  Then the epiphany that I should train to run and full Ironman and end up in Kona happened.

I knew when I looked for a coach I wanted someone who would help me build a training plan to reach my goals.  I also wanted someone who could help me develop a better food plan.  Marisa is the owner of Evolve Multisport (check out blog on side) and one thing I liked when I first met her was not only her background in triathlons but also her knowledge and commitment to nutrition.  I knew then that I would need to change what I was eating to really get to the level I wanted to achieve.  Most people don’t know what is good and what is bad.  What should we eat when?  Should I eat less or more?  There is so much information out there and most of it makes no sense.  One thing I have done is read more on the subject and only take advice from someone healthy that knows what they are doing.  I also know that if I make a huge shift in what I eat it will not stick.  I have slowly over the past few months started tweaking my food intake.  Marisa told me that I would need to start looking at food as fuel.  That is hard to do all the time.  In my mind fuel is needed when I am going to run.  When I am hungry and it is the evening and workouts are done for the day, food is filling.  It is hard for me to think that I need certain foods at certain times for optimum performance.  Slowly though I am making these changes and results are following.

I still eat things I shouldn’t, like the pizza I just had for lunch.  I splurged for the first time in months and had a bag of peanut butter M&M’s, slowly ate them over 2 days.  But every time I eat I think about the effects it will have on my body during training.  I know this is a process that is going to take a lot of physical endurance.  I also know to build the strength to finish I need fuel to get there.

Vibram Five Fingers

I got my first Vibram Five Fingers this weekend.  I have been wearing them everywhere, much to my wife’s dismay.   I have been curious if they would really change the way I walk and run.  I can tell you they feel just like being bare foot with just enough protection from sharp objects.  You feel everything under your feet.  Without even thinking about it I am choosing my steps more carefully.  Not walking over everything like I did with normal shoes that can ultimately cause me tweek my ankle.   My wife and I get home from a few days in the mountains and I couldnt wait to go running in them.  We had just enough time for me to squeek out a few miles.  Off I go with the new shoes.  Something else I have been wanting to do more of was trail running instead of the same ole streets.  I get to the beginning of the trail and start off down the path.  I take it easy bacuse I have read that you want to ease into these.  After a few minutes I think to myself, wow, I really am running different.  I am on the front of my feet and not landing on my heels.  Maybe it’s just my mind thinking about it so much that my body is just following.  I keep going and decide to increase the pace.  I am feeling good and still enjoying this new stride.  I hit the one mile marker and decide to keep going.  I’m feeling good and dont want to turn around just yet.  After hitting about 1.2 miles i decide not to push much further and turn around.  No music, listening to my breathing, feeling the ground under my feet and excited about this new energy about running, this is fun.  I get back to the car and couldnt wait til the next run.  After one run I am sold.  I cant wait to build up to these and I will never run in normal shoes again.

Side note – For the first time in months I woke up the next morning and my calves were very tender.  Not to the point of pain, just noticable with every step.

Pinehurst International Tri

Pinehurst NC, the site of my first International Distance Tri

I am excited to start increasing the distance of the races.  This was a 1500 meter swim, 30 mile bike and 10k run.  I watched the weather and knew it was going to be a chilly start and cool day to race.  It was actually kind of nice to not be sweating before the race even began.  As I stand in line to get my race number and get marked I hear an announcement, “Coffee and Hot Chocolate are available in the clubhouse.”  I look around and debate, do I get out of line and go get some hot chocolate or keep standing here in freezing temps and get my number.  I decide to stay but the hot chocolate was tempting.  It was a little colder than I expected and I hear people talking about riding with they jackets on and wearing socks during the bike even if it makes the transition time longer.  I think to myself, I don’t have a jacket or socks.

As I get everything laid out in transition I figure it’s about time to get out of the jeans and sweatshirt I had on and into the wetsuit.  That was a speedy change.  I walk down to the beach for the swim start and can’t feel my toes it is so cold.  It is 72 degrees in the water so I stick my toes in to warm them up.  You know it is cold when in Nov you are sticking your feet in the lake to warm up your toes.

The swim starts and I look forward to actually swimming this rather than breast stroke the whole way.  This is the first time I actually got to swim in a wetsuit (Sandman swim was cancelled) and it feels a lot different.  Since it is a rented suit and I didn’t know what to look for I didn’t think about how high up on my neck it rode.  It is tight across my throat and I can’t get a breath.  I am trying to tug it down but it’s not moving.  I look around and think this is going to be a super long swim if I can’t get this fixed.  I tug and pull and adjust as much as I can and finally get it to a point I can manage.  I settle down and start to swim.  I can only breathe off one side because the sun was coming up over the lake on the other side and was blinding in my eyes.  It was a beautiful setting though to see the sun rising over the lake.  Once I settle in and get a rhythm on how many strokes before taking a breath and when to check to make sure I wasn’t swimming off course, the swim was going as I wanted.  Once I get back to the beach I check the time and I was only a couple minutes off from the goal time.  Considering the beginning of the swim with the wetsuit I felt great about it.

Off to transition and on to the bike.  I was told many times this was a hilly course.  It did not disappoint.  I get through the first 16 miles and my time was where I wanted it and other than not being able to feel my toes from the cold I felt good.  Then the hills started kicking my butt.  I start noticing on my computer that my avg mph was slowly dropping.  The bike was tough.  Not a great ride but learned what to work on.  Every time I increase my miles I find a little something else to work on.  One positive was that I rode the bulk of the mileage in the aero bar position which is something I have to work on if I am going to ride 112 miles on the bike.

I come out of transition and to the run and think to myself, 2 down 1 to go.  Once again I start slowly to ease into the run.  My lower back is tight and super uncomfortable.  I figure it is from being in the bike position for so long and it will work itself out as I run.  That theory didn’t come true.  I stop to try and stretch it some because it is just killing me on the run.  I end up running hard for a while and having to walk for a minute and just going back and forth the whole run.  Not the way I wanted to finish the race.  I get to the end of the run and we come across the lake on a damn back into the transition area.  I was an awesome way to end the race.  I push with everything I have to the finish line and I hear them calling my name out as I cross the line.  I finished.

Some good, some bad, but a lot of things to work on as I keep moving forward on my quest for the Ironman.

Sandman Tri

Igor has been the talk of the event.  Will there be a swim or won’t there?  I get to the boardwalk and walk down to the transition area and see waves like I have rarely seen in Va Beach (the area I grew up in).  I also notice the current moving south.  The city moved the transition area for the race which forced the swim to go from north to south no matter which way the current was heading.  As buoys were washing ashore I think to myself, there is no way we are swimming.  Boy was I wrong.  As I get a block away I hear over the bullhorn, “Attention racers, there will be a swim.  I repeat we are swimming.”  I notice heads turning and people saying, really?

I finally get to my spot after waiting in line for over 30 min at the transition area entrance.  To say this race was disorganized is an understatement.  On the way down to the race I decided to rent a wetsuit for this event.  I get the wetsuit on and head to the beach front.  My dad came out the see me run for the first time which was very exciting for me.  I stop on the boardwalk to say hi to my dad and wife, zip up the wetsuit and off we go.

They send the first wave of swimmers into the water.  They dive through waves and start swimming.  Some make it, most don’t.  Waves – 1 Swimmers – 0 The swimmers try again.  The second horn blows and the next wave is going.  Same result Waves – 2 Swimmers – 0 This is starting to look ugly.  The 3rd wave goes.  Repeat previous. Waves – 3 Swimmers – 0 At this point swimmers are coming out of the water and walking up the beach to the transition area.  They send wave 4.  You see where this is going.  Heck, everyone except race organizers saw where this was headed.  At this point they get on the bullhorn and tell wave 5, my group, if you feel like you cannot make the swim, you can come out of the water and walk to the transition and you will still be able to continue on the bike and run but your times will not count.  All geared up waiting for the horn and they come on the bullhorn again.  This time to tell us, due to safety concerns there will be no more swimming.  These 2 announcements were made in the 4 minutes between wave 4 and our wave.  So we are going to run down the beach to the transition and go from there.  Couple things are going through my head.  One, I have to run in this wetsuit? And second, it took them to now to realize the water may be a safety concern.  20 minutes had passed from the first swimmers getting in the water and they were barely half way.  Last year the swimmers finished the swim in 12 minutes.  Off to the transition area we go.

I get out of the wetsuit, grab my bike and figure might as well make the best of this.  The drama behind us now and it is time to race the final 2 stages.

This was the first course I had run since the spring that was completely flat.  I knew I had been training hard and I wanted to see if I push hard what I could do.  The bike was going great and I keep looking at my avg speed to make sure I don’t let up.  I tend to let my mind wander and forget I’m in a competitive event.  I get to the turn around and start to really push.  There are a couple riders that keep playing leap frog with me and I was getting a little frustrated that I would pass them only to let them catch back up.  As I went past them the next time I said to myself, this is enough I am not letting them past again.  As I make the last loop around to the transition area I had kept that drive and I stayed ahead of them.

The run was an out and back on the boardwalk.  I was on this boardwalk just a week prior.  The difference was last time I was in mile 12 of the half marathon.  Today it would just be 3.1 miles.  I have had issues with cramping at the beginning of runs on the triathlons, so I start out easy to leg my legs ease into the run.  No cramps and I am feeling great.  There are a lot of people crowding the boardwalk which is always a little extra motivation to keep going and push a little harder.  I start to ease into a faster pace and my mind is off checking out the scenery, ocean on one side, cheering fans on the other and the runners in between.  Plenty of things to keep your mind occupied.  I look at a runner heading at me and, am I really seeing this?  Is he naked?  As he runs past I see that he is wearing a tiny speedo and his race number is covering the front.  As I get closer to the finish line I start looking for my dad and wife again but there are so many people I couldn’t find them.  I find out later that they saw me the whole time and my dad was yelling for me.  Thanks dad!

After the mess with the start of the race I ended up with my fastest time on the bike and the fastest run.  I felt good about the numbers but just wonder if they would have been as good after a swim.

Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon

This past weekend I ran my first half marathon.  When I crossed the finish line this would officially be my longest continuous run, nothing like waiting until race day to see if you can run that distance.  The morning started with a 4am wake up call.  That’s right, 4am.  I always think to myself, what the heck am I doing up at 4am on the weekend.  I wanted to get parking and not have to be shuttled in from a site 20 miles away.  I get down to the parking area and you could already see crowds pouring in to the area.  10,000 people would be starting this race.

We lined up in corrals based on our projected finish times and I was in corral 16.  When they started to announce the start of the race it hit me that I needed to go to the bathroom, again.  They were releasing the corrals one at a time and it seemed to be taking forever.  I made a break for the port-a-john and when I got back the corral had moved maybe 30 feet.

As the race started I wanted to make sure I went slowly enough to not burn myself out before the end of the race.  The first 5 miles I paced with about 3 other people and I felt great.  I thought this isn’t going to be too bad.  Passed half way and we were heading back to the boardwalk and things still felt great.  There were a ton of people lining the whole course, bands playing, it was a Rock ‘n Roll event, and local cheerleaders cheering for the runners.  We pass the 8 mile mark and I am reconsidering the easy part.  My pace was only off about 15 seconds a mile from the first 5 but I could feel my body wanting to slow down.  I kept telling myself, there is less than a 10k left.  I kept pushing because I also know there was a time in mind I wanted to stay under.

Mile Marker 10 –  That was when I knew 2 things.  One, I was definitely going to finish no problem.   Two, my legs were starting to hurt.  We go over a small bridge and the crowds are really getting big at this point.  People are trying to look for the runner they came to support, signs hanging in their hands.  A couple of my favorite signs read “Your almost done, don’t PEE your pants,” and “Keep going, there is beer at the finish line.”  The first one I actually laughed out loud as I ran by because that was a real thought.  Many people took full advantage of the port-a-johns along the course and some even used natural toilets, trees.

Mile Marker 11 – I don’t want to walk at this point.  It is a pride thing.  There are people 5 deep cheering and the last thing you want it to be the guy that has to walk.  Good thing I learned very early in running races, pride should be left in the car.  My right calf started cramping and I couldn’t run.  I started stretching it on the curb.  Start running again and back to the curb I go.  We make the turn to the boardwalk and you see the finish line.  I start jogging slow and at this point all the pain, the cramps, the fatigue is all gone.  Adrenaline is pumping as you know you are so close to the finish.  I pick up the pace just a little.  As I cross the finish line I feel a high that wasn’t going away for a while.

Another notch in my goal is completed.  I knew what I had done was good but I also couldn’t help but remind myself a few things.  I have to complete twice that distance.  I have to do it at a faster pace.  I have to do it after I have already swum 2.4 miles and biked 112 miles.  This was just a step in the bigger picture.  I knew it was a good accomplishment.  I also knew there was a lot of work to do.