Friday thoughts: food, wetsuits, and my mother in law laid down the gauntlet

So, here we are another week has passed, and thankfully, my hard work is continuing to move my weight in the right direction. I was back down to 314 on the scale this morning following the 14 miles on the bike yesterday.

Here are the thoughts for this weekend:

- Today was the Morning of Temptation, and I have to admit I have succumbed to the free food and availability of money for additional food purchases on this fine payday Friday. We’ll make sure to work out today so that the consequence of eating too much for breakfast don’t stick with me. I don’t remember what’s on the schedule for tonight, but we’ll be doing something for sure.

- Going to be really smart this week about food, especially as we taper a little bit on our workouts. I plan on doing this race at a lower body weight than any of my previous triathlons. Lots of water intake, and no great carb loading as this is a sprint.

- I called into Fast:Splits and rented Rachelle a wetsuit for next weekends race. It should fit her appropriately, but we’re going to run over and have her try it on today before we take it for the week. The plan is to do an open water swim on Sunday in the lake where the race will take place. Water temperatures are in the mid 50′s with most of the coming week expected to be in the 70′s. Race day is currently predicted to rain and be in the mid 60′s, but weather changes in a second out here so who knows. With the expected temperatures, we’re also considering neoprene swim caps and swim shoes (both legal by USAT and ok’ed by the race director). Cost will be a consideration, as we can’t rent those, so we’ll probably decide after the our swim this weekend.

- Friend of the blog Fat Cyclist is participating in his first Ironman triathlon this weekend. Suffice to say I’ll be rooting for him and using his halfway splits for each segment of the race as some set of goals for Timberman. Maybe I can make it a challenge that if I can’t meet his half splits, that I have to donate to his Livestrong team.

- My bike’s mysterious creaking sound has not dissipated. It comes only when I apply pressure to the left side of the handle bars while turning the cranks. I am quite sure this bit of information will help the mechanics at the local shop with their tuneup of my bike. The store where we got Rach’s bike/wedding gift provides a year of free maintenance, so we’ll be getting hers a once over as well.

- A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law competed in her first 5k. She’s in good shape, regularly visiting the gym and participating in zoomba classes (I’ve never asked what Zoomba is but the name would seem to indicate some sort of Jazzercise classes mixed with alligator wrestling). She picked up on the idea of running last fall, did some training, and put in a 34:26 in her first race. She’s talked a little smack over the phone and on Facebook, so now I have to step it up. I’ve been shooting for 12:00 miles for the early part of my season (I’m not there yet), with the idea of 10:00 miles for Timberman as an ultimate goal. This will be a developing story as we’ve all now entered a 5k race for the weekend we’re visiting Wisconsin for my brother-in-law’s high school graduation. Expect the blog to be the home of some smack talk of my own.

- I’ve been giving more thought to meeting with a run coach. My swimming has clearly improved after the swim clinic early this year, and my running is the area that can use the most help, and I am the most clueless. We probably can’t afford an ongoing basis kind of thing, but looking for a 1 time set of advice is probably within our means.

- A busy day at work precludes me sharing the longer post about my goals for next weekend, but that’ll come next week for sure.

I hope you all have a good weekend, and enjoy the weather by getting out there and exercising in whatever form you choose!

Bike commuting

After the past few weeks of trips and with extra expenditures all over the place, we’ve been trying to live a little leaner. We’ve got the honeymoon coming up to save for, races to register for, and we still plan to do some exploring of New England yet this summer. One easy thing I can do to help with that is to save gas by bike commuting.  Saving money for the wedding by riding my bike to work was one of the primary reasons (along with having another way to work on getting in shape) I got back on the bike after years away from riding.

As I’ve mentioned, I live along the Charles River, and the Massachusetts DNR maintains a bike trail that runs through the park gracing the riverbank. It actually runs all the way to my office in Watertown; a 6.6 mile ride. It’s relatively flat, with some minor “hills” at road and sidewalk crossings and the occasional stop for traffic as the only things to impede a nice ride. In the early morning, there aren’t as many pedestrians on the path, so it’s usually a few other cyclists and half a doze runners to pass between home and work.
Being that it is the day before payday, there are no errands to run, no bills to pay, no running around of any kind; it was the ideal day for riding in. Plus, Rach has the day off so I didn’t have to worry about making her walk the mile home after work. I took another day off yesterday to rest up and recover from the sinus problems that have been plaguing me for days, so it really seemed like a perfect day to ride. Too bad the temperature didn’t want to cooperate.
I knew it wasn’t going to be really warm with yesterday topping out and about 50, but it was a balmy 41 when I walked out the door this morning. I got an additional kick in the pants when I slipped coming down the front steps in my bike shoes. Thankfully, nothing was hurt other than my pride when the guys putting up scaffolding around our old apartment building across the street asked if I was ok. The one time I fall, and somebody has to witness it. 
The ride in was chilly, but mostly uneventful. I was smart enough to wear my tights and put my skullcap on under my helmet, but I forgot to put my thin gloves on under my bike gloves and my fingers were COLD. Notice, that’s bold and in caps. There was a pretty solid headwind for much of the ride, and it seem to be directed mostly at my fingers and face.
My work has a pretty high standard for appearance that in general I almost meet on a daily basis. Fridays are casual, so I usually bike in then. We have a shower in the building that without I simply couldn’t ride in. Big dude + 6.5 miles on bike = smelly. My fingers were so cold this morning that the warm water stung when it hit my hands at first. Definitely need to wear the gloves next time it’s this cold.
According to Runkeeper, my ride this morning clocked in 30:49 seconds. That’s an average pace of 4:43 per mile. or 12.71 MPH. While that’s not fast, it’s not bad considering I had 15 pounds of work clothes and lunch in my backpack. While I went at a pretty good level of effort, I wasn’t going all out either. Based on how I’ve ridden this week and what I’ve done in the past, I have a pretty good idea on my goals for the Season Opener, and I’ll get into those tomorrow. 
We’re running tonight yet, and as it’s supposed to be warmer for the next several days, it should be nicer this evening. I hope so; because I have to ride home tonight yet, and I like my fingers intact.

A sick day … and I should be faster

The great thing about a training plan that you administer yourself is that you can also change it. And while it can be a double edged sword when you’re not at your strongest in terms of willpower; it’s as least as much of a benefit as it is a concern.

As I mentioned the other day, I was feeling lousy. I have improved but not enough where I felt good about exercising in the rain, which would have been the result of yesterdays plan. I’ve trained in the rain plenty, but not when I’m under the weather and not this close to a race. Aside from increased risk of feeling bad, there’s increased risk of injury from slipping or falling, and it just isn’t worth it.

Plus, Rach had a muscle biology final today that she needed to study for last night, and I quiz her on the last day. So we swapped yesterdays workout with Friday’s rest day. We’re starting to run out of time for training, so I want to make sure we fit in every workout we can before we need to start tapering.

Notes:

- My wife ran a sub 2:00 half-marathon. My cousin Alex is on the Purdue cross-country team and was all-conference in high school. His sister Vanessa has run the Chicago marathon, and has climbed whole buildings worth of stairs. And now, a slightly more distant cousin, Matt Folk, has won the Glass City (Toledo) marathon for the second year in a row with a time of 2:28.

Seriously, I should be faster.

- We’re going to be buying some gear this weekend in final preparation for next weekends race. Rach needs to rent a wetsuit, new bike gloves and a race belt. I may get a race belt, but other than that and cleaning my current wetsuit, I’m in good shape. Unless I win the Powerball tonight. Then I’m buying a bike! ;)

A quick note

Yesterday, I wound up going home a little early from work finishing my day at home. I felt lousy all day, with a strange ringing in my left ear and a lot of sinus congestion. Thankfully the ringing has subsided, but my sinuses are a mess. Anyways, I went to bed early yesterday.

The good news is that sleeping naturally precludes eating, unless of course you’re a sleep eater (which I thankfully am not). I’ve now stayed within my points limit for several days in a row, which is important as the triathlon approaches. I’ve stabilized around 316 lbs over the past couple of days, but I’m sure when I’m feeling better that number will drop.

I did manage to run yesterday after my early morning blog and before work. I started off pretty easy but actually jogged the last 10 minutes. Im trying to find a comfort zone where I’m not running full speed (because I can only do it for a minute) but moving fast enough to make a legitimate time difference over just walking fast. I wound up doing a little over 2 miles in 30 minutes, which is about where I’ve been. Kinda sucks when you can’t tell the difference between running less faster and running more slower because it all evened out in the end. We’re going to run today, so we’ll see how that comes out.

The shakedown cruise

(Sorry if this post lacks the usual cohesion, I went to bed at 10 and woke at 4. My writing brain might not be turned on all the way.)
A full weekend home couldn’t have come at a better time. We’d been on the run for so long, even having a lot of fun, that being home without anything going on and just having time to relax was so needed. Of course, by relax I mean train.

With the first race of the season only 2 weeks away, the thing we’ve been most lacking is miles in the saddle of an actual bike. My inability to run aside, this was going to be the most important part of the first race. You can put in all the miles on a bike trainer in the gym that you want, but turning the pedals to actually move your mass around at the right speed is the part you can’t duplicate sitting still.

Saturday, Rach had to cover a field hockey game so I had a few hours to myself. I had some work for a release around 2 PM, so I decided to give a go at 10 miles on the bike at close to race pace. It’s hard here in Boston to get a ride in close to the house that is fast and uninterrupted. Even with the trails along the river, there are stops for bridges, slowing for unsafe turns, and avoiding traffic. Basically, other than traffic crossings, it’s ideal for race training.

I did an out and back 10 miles along the river, which involves a mostly flat course with a few bridge crossings that amount to small “hills”. The only problem is the starting and stopping if you don’t catch the lights at the right time. There are several sections where you can really open up and get going, but the momentum you lose when coming to a crossing is hard to make up. In the end, my time was 44 minutes for just short of 10 miles. Slower than race pace, but I was also not quite pushing towards race pace, which is hopefully going to be about a 16 mph average for the .

Only later did I realize what a good thing it was that I didn’t go all out.

Rach told me when she got home that the Timberman training schedule said we had a long bike ride due Sunday. We could do a long ride going back and forth along the river, but I wanted something more. There are also the mean streets of Boston, the bike lanes through the suburbs, and all sorts of other paths through parks. But if we were really going for a shakedown cruise, the first real distance test of the season; I wanted to do it someplace cool.

Enter The Minuteman Bikeway. It’s 10 miles of gorgeous paved biking heaven and it starts a mere 5 miles from our house. I’d seen signs for it while driving through Arlington but hadn’t previously thought of riding there, not really realizing how close it was to our house. Figuring this was the ideal place to log some miles and put ourselves and our bikes to the test, we headed out for a nice long ride.

We didn’t push the pace much early in the ride; Rach had only been out twice previously for a total of about 10 miles. Plus, as much as she is more athletic athletic (true), and her bike is better than mine (sad but true), she is at least a year behind me in terms of riding experience. She’s got the right raw materials for the job, but she isn’t a carpenter yet (Sorry, there’s a kung fu movie on as I type this, so I’m thinking in poorly translated Chinese proverbs).

Once we actually reached the trail I realized how right I had been to take this ride. Not only was it every bit as pretty as I’d hoped, but the weather stayed beautiful on a day that was predicted to be rainy and gloomy. Because we were getting in some good distance, we didn’t push the pace too much, averaging about 13 mph on the way out. When we reached Bedford Rail park, the far end of the trail; we took a break to rest and eat. They have a small depot and an old passenger car there, and some good inexpensive hot dogs. (Nothing makes a journey worth the effort like a good hot dog waiting at the other end).

Turning around to head home, I decided to see what kind of legs I had left after 16 miles. Whenever the path was free of walkers and gave enough room between crossings to open it up; I did. We averaged 15 mph for the better part of the trip home, even seeing 17 and 18 mph for a few good stretches. Rach even asked me to back off a few times, which is a good sign that I was feeling it. (And that I’m still ahead of Rach at least on the bike.)

At the end we’d done 32 miles, and both our bikes and ourselves got through it just fine (although my bike has a squeek I cant figure out). So, we followed that up with a nice walk over to the mall to get our free Godiva truffle for the month. Nothing like chocolate you don’t have to feel guilty about.

Readers who write

As much as I enjoy talking about me (and I have 85 posts to prove it), In honor of Idol Gives Back the fact the fact that I should have done this weeks ago, I am going to spend some time talking about you.

I have been feeling especially blessed of late to have you wonderful folks out there as an audience for my ramblings. I freely admit to getting an ego boost from seeing the daily readership numbers, and love the interaction from the comments section, so keep it up! It really does help keep me motivated, even if the yo-yo of my weight loss hasn’t indicated that as much as it did earlier in the year.

On top of being great readers who have been kind enough to spend time on what I have to say, the following is a short list of regular blog readers who have stories of their own to share. The fact that these stories have at least something in common with mine is not terribly surprising as both eating and cycling are excellent pastimes. Eventually this list will find a permanent place on the site, but for now I present:

The Becoming Timberman “Readers who also write” List of Blogs
  • Roubaix Ramblings – Faithful reader Derek who you will see all over the comments, has been writing for just about as long as I have, and is headed towards a 70.3 of his own. He’s got a lot of good things to say, and is doing well in this his rookie triathlon season. The only thing I have to warn you about is that he blatantly lies about his run times. No one actually runs 8:00 miles pal, it’s all some trickery involving voodoo, HGH, and the space time continuum.
  • The Pursuit of Fit – Jeff and Brent are 2 guys who have taken their lifelong friendship to the web as they work together to try get in shape. Their site looks far more professional than mine, so don’t forget about me once you head over there and see all the pretty pictures.
  • Barb Trimble – Speaking of pretty pictures, Barb was the photographer who took our fantastic engagement photos, and is probably the longest tenured reader who is not my mother. She’s got a nice site that mostly details her activities as a photographer, with snippets of her personal life sprinkled in. She’s also a runner, and I’m sure will agree with me about Dereks times being physically impossible.’
  • Oldman – Most times I find someone who impresses me, it’s for a reason different from the obvious. This isn’t one of those times. As someone who has been blogging longer than anyone I know, he has been sharing his life and workout for years. That’s impressive enough, but on top of that he’s not just dealing with training and racing, but fighting cancer as well. That’s REALLY impressive. Having just lost Rebecca to cancer, I root even more strongly to anyone fighting the fight.
I apologize if I missed anyone. As I said this list will become a permanent part of the main page at some point in the near future.
Notes:
- Today turned out to be a rest day. It’s what the schedule said, but I had originally wanted to bike or run. Frankly, I was/am just too tired for that. This post will go up while I sleep, and I’m looking to be up early for a 10 mile ride with a run to follow later on.
- The allergy medicine has been helping, but it’s still not perfect. I need to get in to see a doctor in the next couple weeks.

Again, I blame work

Yesterday was a great day. I ate a little extra, but not too much, to coincide with a “two a days”. We followed up our morning swim with about 20 minutes on the bike (we got out late and stopped early due to oncoming darkness). Rode pretty hard though, but with no guess as to speed or distance because I forgot to attach my bike computer.

I had fully planned on bike commuting to work as a way to get in an extra bike workout, but a project at work hasn’t gone as planned, and I had to take my laptop home last night to get work done. I don’t have panniers (saddle bags for bicycles), so I would have had to put the laptop in the backpack with all my clothes, shoes, etc. So, no ride in this morning.

The good news today is that i was down another pound, and my metabolism is definitely up. I went to bed hungry and woke up hungry. Further, we were out of milk so I got to fully enjoy The Morning of Temptation because i didn’t have anything to eat prior to coming in. A bagel with cream cheese was quite the enjoyable breakfast today, and a guilt free one at that. Knowing that I’m in line on points, and headed for a good workout today is the best way to start a friday.

Aside from a short lived thunderstorm yesterday, we’ve got a lot of good weather in the long term forecast. I’m thoroughly excited to be outdoors for most of our training over the next couple weeks. We’ll still mostly be swimming inside, but sometime before the next triathlon, we’re going to be hitting Walden Pond for an open water training swim. Rach has never swam in a wetsuit, so she needs practice.

Crunch time

Don’t be confused by the title; there is never time in which I would actually do crunches. Not on purpose anyways. I occasionally compress my abdominal muscles to bend over and pick up an empty pizza box, or to reach for the video game controller, but I hate abdominal workouts.

(Note: I did actually do some core workouts during the winter when weather prevented a trip to the gym. My brain just tried to help me forget it)

Anyways, what I meant by crunch time is the more figurative and common use of the phrase. We’re just over 2 weeks from our first triathlon of the season; The New England Season Opener. As we didn’t move to Boston until late July last year, I didn’t participate in this race; though all of the races I’ve done so far have been of a similar distance. This race is a 1/4 mile swim, a 10 mi bike, and a 5k run.

I’d done some more running intervals the past 2 days, determined to put down a good time in the area where I can make the most improvement (yes, most is used relatively in that sentence). My times were pretty similar roughly 2.2 miles in 30 minutes. That puts me at or about 42 minutes for a finishing time, assuming I can hit that pace after the swim and bike. Its about 10 minutes slower than I want to be, but I expect that to drop throughout the summer as my fitness level increases.

Today, we finally got out butts out of bed and hit the pool at 6AM. The good news is that after a few weeks away from serious swimming, my 25 yd and 50 yd times are just as quick (at top speed, around 20 and 45 seconds). The bad news is that after about 600 yds, is that my stamina goes down the tubes, and I have to start taking breaks every 25 to 50 yds. Thankfully, this race is a short one. This morning I did 1350 yards in an hour, including some kick and pull exercises. Those slow me down some, but at best I’d have done 1500 today. Thats not going to cut it for Timberman.

We’re going to get in some time on the bike today, hopefully 10 miles outdoors this evening.

Weight this morning was 317, so I’m closing back in on my lower numbers.

Look Keo Easy pedal review

A few weeks ago I took advantage of a good deal at REI to get some clipless pedals. Now that I’ve had them for a while and had a chance to put them through their paces I figured I’d pass on what I found out so far.

Have you ever seen the commercials where the little kid is trying to read the ingredients of some food product they’re about to eat, but need mom to tell them what the big words mean? This is sort of how I felt when I tried to figure out what my Look Keo Easy pedals were made of. I wanted to know what exactly I was relying on to put my 300+ pounds of weight against while pedaling as hard as I can though training and races.

The Keo site says that the pedal is made of a composite material, but didn’t provide a lot more detail. Doing some digging I found that it was a “polyamide resin comprised of glass fibers, Nylon 6,6 and an MX nylon”.  While it doesn’t tell me a great deal as someone without a PhD in Chemistry, it tells me it’s some kind of really strong plastic-like substance mixed with fiberglass. That’s good enough for me, because it should mean it’s strong and yet light.

Installing the pedals was interesting. Normal pedals use a tool called a pedal wrench to put tools on. Being that the Look Keo pedals don’t have the flat sides on the axle to support the usage of the pedal wrench, and the instructions didn’t include anything for actually installing the pedals, I was at a bit of a loss on the installation process. So I went to the internet and found something surprising; inside the axle of the pedal is drilled to support using a hex wrench to install the pedals. Thankfully, Hex wrenches are an extremely common tool for bicycles and I have a bunch of them, and was able to install the pedals quickly from that point.

I should take a step back here for those of you who don’t cycle regularly or aren’t up on the intricacies of modern pedal design. There are really 3 kinds of pedals: flat or platforms, pedals with clips, and what are called clipless pedals. Flat or platform pedals are the kind that come with most bicycles, we’ve all seen them. Pedals with clips are just that; flat or platform pedals with that have an attached “clip” to slide the front of your foot into. There is usually an adjustable belt at the highest point of the clip to ensure a snug fit. Lastly, there are clipless pedals, which is actually a terrible misnomer. Clipless pedals allow the rider through the use of special bicycle shoes to attach their foot more directly to the pedal via use of a cleat on the shoe that literally clips into the pedal. The Look Keo Easy pedals are this last type of pedal, and came with cleats to install on my bicycle shoes.

Installing the cleats was significantly easier than the pedals, as it’s just three screws into the bottom of the shoe to attach the cleats. The cleats are made of a softer composite, so they are far more likely to need replaced. The portion of the cleat that attaches to the bicycle is made of a harder silicone, so it securely attaches and has less give than the remainder of the clip. Plus the silicone limits the friction caused when trying to unclip the cleat from the pedal.

The reason I looked to move to clipless pedals is that with my larger feet, my shoes didn’t fit very well into the clips on my platform pedals. This made it difficult for me to get the ball of my feet securely on the platform, causing me to pedal mostly with my toes. Now that I have the clipless system I can adjust (within an certain range) where the cleat sits on the foot.

Once I got everything hooked up and adjusted to where I like them, there was the manner of learning how to get clipped in without killing myself. This is far and away the most difficult part of moving to clipless pedals; just getting your clips in and getting underway without falling over.The pedals, due to the weight of the springs in the clip (rear) end of the pedal tend to hang in a way that isn’t conducive to getting clipped in. You have to use your foot to get it straightened out and then clip in. This is pretty easy when you’re standing still for the first one. It’s far more complex to attempt while moving to get the other foot in.

What adds to the complexity is that while you’re learning to get clipped in, you have to learn to unclip as well; sometimes rather quickly. Trying to get clipped in while moving slowly makes it really easy to tip over and if you can’t get your other foot unclipped in time, you’re going to wind up getting hurt. Thankfully, when I fell while trying to clip in, I landed on a row of shrubs, keeping me mostly upright and allowing me to figure out how to unclip my other foot before I wound up on the ground.

Eventually, I figured out how to get clipped in without falling down and once fully underway, I loved using the new pedals immediately. The bike feels more responsive all the way around,  as I’m getting power from every part of my pedal stroke. The old pedal clips let up a lot of force on the upstroke of each foot, so I might be getting power from one side, but when both were in motion there was no way I was transferring all of my effort to the bike.

Being a big guy I worried initially about the pedals being made of something other than metal, but so far they seem strong and dependable. Putting full weight on each foot, pedaling as hard as i can, and I heard no creaks, detected no lack energy transfer on the upswing. In fact I still deal with a little fear about what happens in a stituation where there’s a problem with the road or a sudden mechanical failure with a tire and I need to get unclipped quickly. Hopefully that won’t happen, because I’m not sure how fast I can react. But in all other regards this change was definitely worth it.

Notes:

- Hope I didn’t bore anyone with all that. I know it’s a lot to chew on and many folks come here just for my daily weightloss struggles. But these tools give me  and added advantage in working to complete my goals. For the folks who are triathletes or cyclists, i think this is valuable information. If folks disagree, feel free to say so in the comments. I’m a big boy and can take it.

- I did 30 minutes of intervals last night, and wound up running 8 out of the 30 minutes. I’m getting faster as I managed 2.2 miles in just about 30 minutes. The new RunKeeper application works really nicely, and I’ll need to get an armband for my phone for sure.

Sleep

Understandably after a long weekend, I was pretty tired, but I had some work to do Sunday night both for my regular job and my work for gaming nexus. So I stayed up to my usual time Sunday. This left me extraordinarily tired yesterday after work. 

Rachelle worked as an athletic trainer at yesterdays 114th running of the Boston Marathon. She got to see some famous athletes and the governor of MA. She also got some neat swag for working and some good experience for her resume. And she got really tired, working for 11 hours. 
This led to a very early bedtime for both of us yesterday, and catching up on some much needed sleep. My legs were far too sore from the climb of the Bunker Hill monument to work out, and I’ve really come to realize how important it is to get the right amount of sleep as I continue to work on my body and train for the racing season.
My mom has seemingly boundless energy and sleeps a few hours a night. I clearly got my energy levels and ability to function on a few hours sleep from her, but she also doesn’t spend an hour plus a day beating up her body in the name of racing. Since I started working out I find I need a lot more sleep, and only after a good sleep do I really seem to lose weight.
Last night we went to bed around 9, which is at least 2 hours and as many as 4 hours before my normal bedtime. I woke up at 4 AM after a nightmare in which I returned to the time of Jesus, and didn’t speak the language of either the Jews or the Romans, and couldn’t communicate with anyone in the area. Needless to say, that didn’t end well. I wound up going back to sleep after about an hour, and got a couple more hours sleep before getting ready for work.
I know sharing my sleep patterns isn’t exactly exciting reading, but the fact that I dropped 2 pounds between yesterday and today without having worked out sort of points to the benefits of getting more sleep. I’m sure some of it was recovery from the climbing, as I am less sore today so my body must have repaired those muscles. My legs still feel heavy so tonights run will be interesting. 
We have plans to swim tonight and will be pushing our outdoor bike training over the next couple of weeks to really prep for the race. I’m now looking at riding the course in advance of the race probably two Saturdays from now.