No place to hide

As I stated when I started the site, I never really thought about my weight until that day my seatbelt didn’t fit very well. I guess I used to hide from the fact that I was gaining weight in video games, in work, in my relationships; in anything that would let me. It wasn’t until I couldn’t hide from it that I did something about it. Nowadays when I’m having a rough time of things, I hide in the metaphorical gym. Whether it’s on my bike, in the pool, or out for a walk/jog/run, I use this time to get out frustration, anger and anything else bothering me in my daily life.

About the time Rachelle was deciding where she was going for grad school, we found out that her cousin Rebecca (whose family lives here in New England) was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. She was a high school senior at the time and decided on Assumption college to pursue her degree. She started at school this past fall, but the cancer and the associated treatments forced her to return home not long into the semester.

Over the past few weeks, things had deteriorated to the point where they had stopped treatment due to the toll it was taking on Rebecca. Just last week she was feeling better and went home, but had to be admitted again a few days ago.

We’d been planning over the past few days to join her family for family dinner to celebrate easter. Rachelle’s dad even scheduled a flight to come out and stay with us for the weekend (It’s his brothers daughter). Last night, only a few hours after Rachelle’s dad confirmed his flight; Rebecca ended her fight with cancer.

Aside from the beauty her life gave to her family and friends, she also left a lasting impression on those she got to know during her stays at Mass General Hospital. She started raising funds under the name “Cure with Hope“, and raised over $3000 for the pediatric wing of the hospital. She sold bracelets, t-shirts and other items; with plans for more in the works when her illness overtook her. I don’t know what’s going to happen with this now that Rebecca has passed, but even in the few short months it has existed, Cure with Hope made a difference in a lot of lives.

While Rebecca can finally rest, there are people who fight daily in the hopes that someday no one else will be lost to this disease. Folks like the Lance Armstrong Foundation, American Cancer Society and others do a lot of work to help the doctors and researchers fight the various forms that cancer takes. (I’m not asking anyone to give any money, as each person should choose to fight in their own way).

What this brings me back to is that where do you go, what do you do when something like this happens? The gym? Video games? food? What helps you hide from the pain and the loss, when nothing can help you get away from it.

Times like this also make you think about yourself and your own mortality. Obesity is one of the key indicators linked to cancer. I smoke the VERY occasional celebratory cigar, and have a family history of cancers. The cigar is on a yearly basis, and certainly isn’t much of a risk factor; where the weight is something that is a large risk factor and something I need to work to control.

In the end, I just have to keep working, even when there’s no place to hide.

A successful weekend

It’s funny how we as people measure things. Months, pounds and inches are all arbitrary decisions we use to determine the size or length of something. Success and failure are just as flexible in their use. With that I am going to put my own spin on the meaning of success in terms of how my weekend went.

No, I’m not going to stretch it that far

In case you missed it before the blog went down for a couple days, this past weekend was PAX East. PAX East is a video game convention being held right here in Boston. Being that I live here, 3 of my buddies from Columbus came and crashed here and we spent 3 great days at the conference. It was only the first year for the convention, but it was a lot of fun, sold out for all 3 days, and had a lot of great panels, discussions, displays, and freebies. 

Of course conventions mean a lot of very slow walking, even more standing still, and deafeningly loud sound effects and music. It also means only eating at home once all weekend, drinking beer, and consuming about a salt lick worth of sodium. There’s the mandatory morning caffeine, pizza lunches, and the pizza dinners to follow it up. Thats the way it usually works. But not this year.
This year I ate controlled portions at every meal. This year, I only drank real soda when no other choice presented itself. This year I had breakfast at home twice, plus dinner at home Sunday. This year I had pizza just once the whole weekend. This year, I tried to avoid sodium whenever possible. This year, I did great. Even at Rachelle’s birthday dinner (shout out to the hot lady who turned 23 yesterday), I only had 2 Mc Ultra’s.
In the end, I gained a pound; 316.2 as of this morning. It’s likely salt and the fact that I didnt have any meaningful workouts beyond the slow walk. Rach and I had a good hard swim tonight so hopefully I’ll be faring better tomorrow morning when I get on the scale (I had a piece of leftover birthday cake after dinner, so maybe not).
Just 2 more days until the first morning of the new month. Gotta drop those last few pounds to get back to 313 or below before then.

The site was down and now its back up

For being a technical person, and someone who used to create websites (back in the day when knowing HTML was all it took), I am fairly average at the technical aspects of maintaining the blog.

Out of the blue on Thursday, the site stopped working. I didn’t change anything; but it just stopped working. I didn’t notice, other than the fact that the visit numbers were very low. I assumed it was because the weather was nice and I didnt have anything new.

Thankfully, Derek noticed that the blog was down and emailed me. I was able to work with Google and my hosting company to learn what was wrong, and they fixed it.

I’m enjoying my weekend, and I hope you’re enjoying yours.

I’ll be back monday with an update as we close in on the end of the month.

Sneaking one in

I awoke early to a steady snow this morning. As a point of reference, it was 65 here yesterday, sunny and beautiful. My friends are here for the conference, two of them sleeping just a few feet from where I type this.

The past two days I have been feeling a bit down about my weight loss progress. Setting aside that I’d lost 20 lbs so far in just a few months, I was frustrated with the fact of how simple it is to put pounds back on. I was worried that a weekend like this where it’s essentially one big party with friends, food, and beer; that I’d wind up back where I started.

Thankfully, both my wife and my willpower started to kick back in yesterday, with a hard core bike interval workout. 17 miles in 1:05; with some real hard sections. The workout I find to be the most difficult is what Rachelle calls an ILT, which involves pedaling with one leg for 20 seconds, both legs for 10 seconds, and the other leg for 20 seconds and so on. We do 3 sets of 3 minutes each, and by the end of that, my legs just want to run away. After those segments Im all to happy to do hard segments that involve both legs.

The good news from sneaking that workout in last night amongst all my other tasks is that I saw 315 on the scale this morning. Obviously, this gives me some courage for the rest of the weekend. I’m still shooting for 312 this month, and I think I can get there.

Bad news and bad news

Wasn’t sure which to start with, so I’ll start with the bad news:

Folks, I won’t be around much the rest of the weekend. I have friends coming into town and a video game convention to attend. I’m going to work seriously on maintaining or losing weight this weekend, but I’m facing an uphill battle. My wifes birthday celebration, entire days away from the house without access to home cooked meals, and my arch-nemesis for the weekend; beer.

I’ll be covering the events of the weekend over at Gaming Nexus. I’ll try to pop in here with little updates, especially if I can get blogging from my Nexus One working.  If not, expect tidbits on Sunday evening.

The other bad news is that I weighed in at 318 this morning. This is a full 5 pounds up from last week, and I’ll be darned if I can make sense of it. I know I wasn’t counting points properly, but man it sure was a quick jump from where I was. Back to work I guess.

The heart of the matter

The great sage Don Henley once spoke:

“I’ve been tryin’ to get down to the heart of the matter 

But my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter”

The rest of the song is some whining about heartbreak and forgiveness. But these are the two key lines for today. 
After the weekend of fun I described in my last couple of posts, even with some good hard workouts; I was still up several pounds. I was actually higher the other night than I started the month even. Granted, most of that weight was transitory salt weight, but I still was up.
Last night, I rode 17 miles in an hour on the bike, and still had a good bit of leg left. A year ago I’d only dream about being able to do that. Two days ago, I swam more than 1.2 miles in an hours time. Last year, I struggled to get through 800 yards. I can run…  ok, well, I can run a little which is still more than I could do a year ago. 
At this point most of that extra weight is gone, and I’m hopeful to reach close to 310 by the end of the month. But when you get down to the heart of the matter, it’s still (and may always be) about how much, or even just what I choose to eat each day that makes the difference in my weight loss.

What I did this weekend: Part 2

Yesterday I spent time talking about my Friday and Saturday. Today’s post is about my Sunday fun in the sun from the back of a bike.

We have laundry machines in our building, and one of my weekly errands is to get the quarters we need to do the laundry. Normally, I do that when we get groceries; but the sun and this particular errand gave me a good excuse to get out on the bike.

Whats great about where we live is that there’s so many interesting things going on. The 400 lb. gorilla in the room neighborhood is of course Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. The grocery stores we visit most are in the Fenway neighborhood, so I headed out in that direction. I figured I could use the trip to get quarters to determine if I was dressed appropriately for the weather. Plus, I promised the professional photographers that follow my blog (all 2 of them) that I’d take some pictures of Boston while I was out. (note: this was all done with just my 5 megapixel camera phone; I’m all about the high quality equipment).

After I got the quarters I decided I was warmly enough dressed, and figured I’d get some photos of Fenway on the way back over to the river.

The Sox have yet to retire my number
I wasn’t the only one out enjoying the sun; I saw a group of bikers with their oriental road machines who went out for a ride and a motorcycle show broke out.
These bicycles are really loud and look too heavy to pedal up hills

It’s amazing to me how diverse these neighborhoods are. Literally right across the street from the motorcycle guys (and their requisite biker groupie), there was a woman painting a portrait of a portion of Fenway Park from the outside.

No snarky comment here; this is 100% cool
A local artist, she’s been capturing several different slivers of Fenway for a while. If I had to guess she was in her early 70′s, but her hand moved crisply and based on just this one sample, her eyes are sharp. Her art is on display at the Fenway Studio along with the work of greater Boston area artists. I don’t know what it will cost, but I’m definitely going to go see what her similar pieces run.
The roads and buildings around Fenway sort of cocoon around it, with the road we take the grocery parallel to the road running along the stadium behind the Green Monster. I took the opportunity on the bike to spin down that road and join the tourists taking pictures in this area.
What baseball stadium? All I see is a sexy blue bicycle
At this point, I’d done more exploring than riding, so it was time to stick my phone in my bag and get some real riding in. That means heading over to the Charles.
The only safe place to really get in a good hard ride is alone the Charles River. There is a trail connecting a series of parks for miles and miles along the river. It’s completely beautiful, and on a slightly chilly day, not very busy. This allowed me to really open up in sections, and stretch the legs. I wound up doing several miles, stopping just once to get a shot of a university boat house. These big, awesome structures dot the river in spots, adding a distinctly New England feel to the beautiful well maintained nature areas on both banks. 
Boston University Boathouse, home of the doggie paddlers
As i rode my way up the path at darn near lightspeed 16 MPH, I realized while shifting gears my bike wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. I had to overshift, wait for the rear dérailleur to adjust, and then shift to the right gear, hoping it would stay where it’s supposed to. 
As I’ve mentioned in the past, I can do plenty of the standard maintenance, but I am not very good with some of the more delicate adjustments. For all of the components involved in shifting, it usually comes to minute adjustments that I haven’t quite mastered (even though there are the very non-technical barrel adjusters on each end of each cable to make easy changes). This meant stretching my ride a bit west to International Bicycle on Comm Ave in order to have them take a look. 
Yes, I was riding on the sidewalk for a minute. Shoot me.
International Bicycle Center is where I bought Rachelle’s bicycle/wedding gift and I’ve been going there ever since for fairly cheap maintenance. They were kind enough to charge me a mere 12 dollars for a couple turns of a screwdriver and a couple minutes tinkering with barrel adjusters. They took my $10 and a couple dollars worth of laundry quarters, and off I went.
Home is basically downhill from IBC, so I did the last couple of miles at a nice pace, able to switch freely between the two gears I actually use most of the time. In the end I did a little over 8 miles, and all of this, including stoping for pictures and bike service took about an hour. Not a very hard workout for the most part, but sometimes you just want to get out and ride.
Attention thieves, our apartment is NOT the second window up

What I did this weekend: Part 1

We had beautiful weather here in Boston for basically this past weekend, and we made sure to take advantage of it. It was such a full weekend that I don’t want Sunday to get lost further down the post, so I’m breaking the weekend into two pieces.

Friday night we celebrated 6 months of wedded bliss by visiting a nice restaurant and then heading to the pool for a good hard swim. Why is it I have to keep learning the same lessons over and over? Eating a 8 oz steak and mashed potatoes or any other heavy meal, even with a good amount of water and veggies will only lead to horribly slow times in the pool and feeling like I have a rock in my gut. Sure enough, it happened again. I hadn’t exactly eaten great on Friday, but I would have felt better without the giant dinner.

This was just one of those times that you have to write off how you feel during the workout because of the value of the workout itself. It’s not like every special occasion meal for the rest of my life will be completely healthy. Plus, I think it’s better to do the workout and maybe not feel my best than to just not do the workout.

In the end it was a tiring 1300 yards, and I figure I can take steak off my pre-race nutrition list.
Saturday was the Multisport World Expo at MIT in Cambridge. As a nerd/geek/dork, I have always been intrigued by MIT, and having any excuse to be on their campus would have been inviting. Now that I live literally across the river from MIT, I was far more excited about the weather and the festival. So excited that we walked instead of riding over.

A view of rowers practicing in the Charles River from the Mass Ave/Harvard/MIT bridge 
You’d think that because I remembered to take some photos of what was going on outside that I’d remember to take some pictures of the festival, right? Wrong. Being overstimulated sort of short circuits my usefulness.

None the less, the festival was terrific. We got to see a few members of our triathlon team, take a look at some races we either had never heard of or hadn’t considered, and take a look at some of the newest technology and clothing. A couple of wetsuit companies were there, which was nice we’re still looking for a wetsuit for Rachelle. While we didn’t wind up buying a wetsuit, we did take advantage of the many discounts being offered on last years products. Rach got a new tri top and I got my first pair of bike shoes at the insane price of $25 each!

For those not into cycling, bike shoes are used in combination with special pedal/cleat combinations in order to generate more power throughout the whole pedal stroke. They’re normally a pretty large expense for a pretty limited use, but they’re a lot easier to use than the clips and straps for regular shoes, which is what I currently have. Considering the price and that I actually found something that fit me on sale, I didn’t think I could pass it up.

We learned a little bit about Chi Running while attending a demonstration by Newton Running. I understand they are selling a product that supports a position they believe in; but they are selling a product none the less. Sure, I think running barefoot is most natural, but I also believe the environment I live in is not conducive to that style. Further, as a big guy, I go through shoes about twice as fast as normal sized folks, and I can only imagine the number of miles I’d get out of a pair of Newtons. Definitely not worth it for me.

Because we weren’t inside the first 1000 to register for the event, I didn’t think we’d win up getting one of the goodie bags the event sponsors put together. Thankfully, the sunny weather lured a few folks away, so we were able to each get a bag. Aside from the usual sale prices and coupons, they had some good sports nutrition samples and some training DVD’s that we’ll definitely watch.

We enjoyed the rest of the day shopping on Newbury and Boylston streets; and I went home with a much needed new pairs of bike shorts and workout shoes. My Nike Vomero +3′s seem to be the root cause of my heel and Achilles pain, so they were replaced with a pair of Brooks that better suit my feet. And I had to throw out last years bike shorts a few weeks ago as they were falling apart. The new ones are stronger and have a gel pad that really seems to make a difference in my comfort level (more on that tomorrow).

Obviously we weren’t the only folks out on this gorgeous day

We ate a lot better Saturday, and it showed in my workout Saturday night. 14 miles on the bike in 14 minutes. I was able to spend much of the time at a real high cadence (around 100 RPM) at a good resistance setting from the bike.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you all about Sunday, the first long outdoor ride of the season, and how nice it is to see Boston from the back of a bike.

Fridays News and Notes

  • I’ve taken the last couple of days off from working out. Between some serious workouts and generally not getting enough sleep, I was feeling pretty worn down. I enjoyed my St. Patricks Day, and even ate a little more than planned, but still within reason. 
  • Weight was up a little bit, 314 (point something). It’s that transient weight from too much salt the past couple days. 
  • 6 months ago today, Rach and i stood in a small church outside Toronto and said our vows. We’re celebrating this mini milestone (In Hollywood, this would be our golden jubilee; here in real life it’s a footnote) by getting in a good hard swim and following it with a salad from Cheesecake Factory.
  • The weather here today is gorgeous but work and scheduled workouts are getting in the way. We’ll definitely be outside as much of this weekend as possible though.
  • Tomorrow is the Multisport World Expo and I’m excited. Missing out on the gift bag stinks, but I’ll bring a backpack, and hope to build my own from walking the show floor. There will be tons of things to see and learn, and I expect to come out of the event both smarter (and poorer).
  • I’m starting to slowly look at new bikes again. I might not be budgeted to buy one right now, but some of last years models can still be had for far cheaper than retail.
  • You may have heard by now that Tony Kornheiser is a Jackass. I’m not going to waste much time commenting on this; Tony knows sports but he also knows the taste of his own shoe leather. I’m a pro-cycling person (obviously) but I also own a small SUV and believe fully in the “Share the Road” concept. I think over time, between better urban planning and increasing attempts to live in harmony with our planet will prove the benefits of cycling as a method of local travel. Until such time, there will be idiots whose opinions we’ll have to hear and ultimately change.
I hope everyone enjoys their weekend and gets to spend some time running, swimming, or on the back of a bike in this beautiful weather.

Happy St. Patricks Day

Good morning and Happy St. Patricks Day!

Being that it’s a holiday of major religious drinking implications, I’ll be over-indulging like most every one else: by drinking 1 or maybe even 2 Bud Light Golden Wheats; and enjoying a day of rest.

We had another strong workout last night, 55 minutes on the bike followed by 30 minutes on the track. Though I walked most of the time on the track, I did start running again. My plantar fascitis/Achilles heel has been responding to the stretching, so I figured I’d give it a go. So I started working on a couch to 5k program to get myself running. My previous running was more like a jog/shuffle. This time I’m looking to actually run. I’m still trying to find a middle ground on effort that lets me run, but doesn’t feel like sprinting. I’m shooting for 12 minute miles initially, hoping to eventually get to 10 minutes.

And I woke up this morning to 313 on the scale again. 2 days in a row is proof that it wasn’t a fluke.

But all that is for tomorrow, today I’ll be relaxing and resting up for another day of hard work tomorrow.

Some other notes:

  • Coach Buxton was kind enough to drop an email with some kind words on my post regarding her nutrition presentation and wanted me to add a couple of things that she usually speaks to during the show:
    • That she too believes that nutrition is a VERY personal thing.
    • That you have to practice nutrition leading up to race day. It’s too easy to forget something, or worse try something new with disastrous results on race day
  • The Multisport Expo is coming to Boston this weekend. Rach and I are going, and excited to see all the new gear and learn some new techniques. Further, the tri team is having a social afterwards, which will also be a good time.