Objects in the mirror can be better than they appear

In returning from the longest break I’ve had since starting the blog, I expected to have much worse news to open with. Thursday morning I ran the Inaugural “I don’t have a Thanksgiving Race” 5k run on the Charles River Eslpanade. While I managed to take the overall win, and do so in a fairly quick (for me) 39:30, I managed a muscle in my thigh and hurt my left knee on the way to victory. Though it was worth the effort to push myself to make up for the race I couldn’t do; I then proceeded to go 4 days without even a modicum of exercise, while at the same time consuming roughly my own weight in Thanksgiving dinner along with other various and sundry meals. 

This of course led to a bout of “what the hell am I doing??” depression about how I wasn’t actively working to lose weight and was in fact going entirely the opposite direction. This of course led to more eating, and even less desire to do anything physical. Thankfully, Thanksgiving dinner is followed by the beginning of Christmas shopping and we did a good bit of walking around at the outlet mall on Thursday (yes, Thanksgiving night at midnight is when shopping starts here), and at the regular malls on Friday and Saturday. 
Retail therapy is sometimes how I chase the blues away, but it wasn’t so much the shopping as it was just the walking that made this weekend much less of a disaster than it was looking to be. I wound up gaining only 2 pounds this weekend, and while I definitely didn’t gain any fitness, I feel fortunate not to have gained any more weight.
This all would have been shared yesterday, but I was home sick, and didn’t feel much like posting. Now that I’m back up and about, we’re going to the gym tonight to start working towards a semblance of an offseason program.
Notes:
- Famous Friday is moving to this weeks post, and should be a fun read
- 20 pounds, 32 days. yikes!

The best weight loss announcement yet…

I have always been close with my mom. This is not to say my dad and I aren’t close, because we are. But from a young age, my mom and I have always had a ton of shared interests; computers, reading, writing, etc. while my dad and I talked mostly about sports. Over the years, the relationships have of course evolved and while I’ve definitely grown closer and come to admire my father even more for all the sacrifices he’s made for our family, I’m still pretty tight with my mom.

And so it is with much pomp and circumstance that I am thrilled to announce that in just a few short weeks of Weight Watchers, my mom has lost 18 pounds. Thats about 8 pounds more than I’ve lost in an entire year of training for races. Clearly, someone has been controlling her food intake, while I have been… uh, eating. I’m definitely going to use my moms effort as an example of how I can do better than I have.

So while we all enjoy our thanksgiving rituals (or for the readers outside the US, the holiday you call Thursday) remember that Thursdays turkey themed feast becomes Fridays fat.  Normally, I’d be running a Thanksgiving morning race, but with Rach’s practice schedule it doesn’t fit the schedule this year. So I’ll do my own 5k out on the Esplanade. I’ll push myself as hard as I can for hopefully less than 40 minutes, then enjoy the rest of my day cooking the majority of a turkey, along with the usual fixings.

Notes:

- 37 days, 18 pounds.

- I’ve had a few missed posting days lately as things have been pretty busy at work. I’ll be back Friday for regular posting after taking tomorrow off and should be back on schedule.

- Monday night we biked and lifted at the gym, and I woke up Tuesday morning with sore elbows. Rachelle told me I must have had poor form and that I had strained my ulnar collateral ligament. She wanted to swim Tuesday night, and I wasn’t sure about it, but by the time work ended, I was feeling really jazzed about the pool. I only did 800 yards, but it felt really good. I was sore after, but the good kind.

- Fridays post will be the first in a series of “Famous Fridays”, where I tell you all about my exploits with my new famous friends. It’ll be a hoot, or something like a hoot.

Race Report: America’s Hometown Thanksgiving 5k 2010

When I started this blog, I must have thought making major changes to my body and my life were going to be easy as a walk in the park 5k by the ocean. My first race report was for the America’s Hometown Thanksgiving 5k 2009, which is race put on in Plymouth to benefit the Plymouth Fragment Society, which is the oldest continuously operational charity in the United States. In that report, I offhandedly mention:

My official time was 39:06. That was a PR by 2:15, with my previous best being 41:21. I was expecting this to be better because of the running I’ve been doing.

What’s funny is that this PR has held up for now a full year, and only on occasion have I gotten even close to that time in either standalone races or as part of triathlons. Yesterday was one of those times where I got close, but didn’t match or break it. The fact that it’s held up for a year is a combination of a few factors:

  • I spent the better part of my year training for distance on the swim and the bike, and I basically ignored my running most of the year, assuming I’d have to walk the half-marathon at the end of Timberman anyways.
  • Not enough road races on the schedule. prior to this year, I ran a minimum of 7 road races a year from 2007-2009. This year, I’ll likely have 4. This is mostly a result of my race entry fees going towards expensive long distance triathlons and having to find somewhere to take it from in our budget.
  • I’ve been lazy about working on my running until last month.
I figure I do well in the fall races because the cold helps keep my body temperature down so it takes me longer to overheat. I was able to run 1 1/2 miles yesterday at a good pace before I had to walk for a bit. When I took my first walk break, I was at 19:40 almost exactly at the halfway point.
Unlike previous 5K’s instead of slowing down a lot in the second half, I only slowed a little, and ran in with an official time of 40:33. (Edit: Full results are here) A bit more than a minute slower than my PR, but still my second fastest ever 5k. I wound up taking 2 more walking breaks, without which I would likely have PR’ed.
My time and effort wasn’t the big news yesterday as Rachelle, who won the Women’s Collegiate division last year, repeated as champion for the division this year. It’s the only race she’s ever won her division, and she was super excited. Unfortunately, they didn’t give the winners baked goods in home made 1st place pans this year, but they did give away super nice custom wine glasses that say “I was on the Podium” America’s Hometown Thanksgiving 5k. 
Rach modeling her race t-shirt and winners glassware
To keep her from getting a big head about winning, I also took the following picture of Rach prior to the event:
You can’t take yourself too seriously on a day you posed as a lobster
Notes:
  • 18 pounds, 39 days to go. I had a bad weekend for food, but made up for it with a magic recovery day on Saturday and a hard run on Sunday.
  • When I say yesterdays race was well run, I mean in a small race sort of way. The timing is done by digital stopwatch and number recording at the finish line, to eliminate the cost of timing chips. Plus, it’s run by an experienced group of racers, Team Pegasus, which bolsters two world class elite triathletes in Tim and Cait Snow. In fact, Cait actually did the work to compile the results, and I got a picture of her working through the results with some folks who think theirs need adjustment.
Professional Triathlete and part time race-timer Cait Snow

A fun day

Yesterday was fun.

I spent the better part of the day giving myself a few well deserved over congratulatory pats on the back for being able to tell people about my life for a year. Then following a quick dinner with the Mrs. I attended a swap meet put on by the Back Bay Cycling Club. I was already in a celebratory mood when I got there, and I have to say it was pretty cool.

The location where the swap meet was held at The Record Company, a soon-to-open non-profit recording studio. So far, it looks more like a recently abandoned warehouse, but you can see where they’re going with it, and the condition only added to the feel of the event. It was crammed full of bikes, bike parts, clothing, accessories, and people. I’ve seen bike shops here in Boston with less good stuff than this.

Along with everyday cyclists “pedaling” their wares *rimshot*, were local boys Adam Myerson and Jesse D Anthony, who are professional cyclists and all around good guys. I went in looking for perhaps a pair of bike shoes in my size that would work with the SPD pedals I got from my friend John, and maybe something cool that caught my eye (another jersey for the collection, perhaps?).

I made my way around the room once, and on my first pass, didn’t see anyone who was tall enough to have feet my size (or jerseys my size), so the shoes were out. But I did sign up for the raffle. A couple of the prizes were new bike shoes from a bike shop, so I hoped maybe I’d get those.

After the raffle I made my way back to the start of the room where I noticed a couple of petite ladies with a table of their own and some jerseys. The more I looked, the more I liked. Hey, get your mind out of the gutter! I meant the jerseys! They had some really rad stuff. At least one, and perhaps both gals (whose names I’ll have later) have raced for all-female cycling teams. I wound up picking up two jerseys for Rach, giving her the beginning of her own jersey collection.

After giving up on finding shoes I got the idea to look for pedals. My Look Keo Easy pedals were on my bike when it was stolen earlier this year. I still have the shoes that work with those pedals and if I found pedals that worked with them, it would allow me to give Rach the SPD pedals, and get her shoes to work with them.

During my second pass around the room, I found 3 sets of Look pedals, and I wound up buying a pair of unused 2008 Look Keo Sprint pedals for $15. They’re an upgrade over the Keo Easy pedals I had previously, because the release tension is adjustable to provide a more secure lock between the cleat and the pedals. I picked up a pair of socks for Rach and I from Adam with his Cycle-Smart logo on them and split. Rach had spin class at 8:30, so I had to leave a bit lot earlier than I wanted to (like 2 1/2 hours earlier).

The goods

When Rach got back from spinning class, she wanted to go back over and look at some more stuff, but by the time we got back there, most everyone was either closing down or gone. But when we stopped by the raffle table I found out I won a little gift pack from Newbury Comics, a local media store. I got a $25 gift card and two pair of awesome cycling socks.

not bad for $6

Notes:

- The only bad part about yesterday is that my legs were just shot. I’ve been doing short but challenging running or riding workouts every day for a week, and my legs are beat. I managed a mere 8 minutes last night on the rollers and had to stop twice. This on the heels of being completely pooped after running 13 minutes on Wednesday and with a race on Sunday, I’m going to take it easy the next two days to get some recovery time in. I’m taking today off, and probably just doing a light spin outside on the bike tomorrow.

- Rach liked her jerseys so much she wanted to model them, and so the pics of that are “BONUS FRIDAY CONTENT”:

Is she a cyclist or a NASCAR driver?
Do you think maybe she loves this jersey?

Happy Anniversary!

Hi, my name is Ben.

I’m STILL what you’d call… fat.

I’m 6’2″ and as of this morning weigh in at 318.4 pounds. It’s a mere 8 I’m still built like an offensive lineman, but now with a bit more muscle under the fat. And I’m guessing I could outrun most of those big fellas in a 100 yard dash now too.

When I started this blog 1 year ago today, my goal was simple: I wanted to use the blog to be my journal, my mirror, the place I go to celebrate the good, and persevere through the bad. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it , and at first I didn’t care. But as someone who has considered myself a writer since I was around 9 or 10, the idea of an audience was really appealing.

And boy did I luck out there. Early last week, we passed over 10,000 unique visits, and we’re closing in on 20,000 pages viewed. Those numbers just blow my mind. And while sometimes you have to sacrifice quality for quantity, that’s certainly not the case here. I have been blessed to have some of the most amazing readers who have found the perfect balance of encouragement and keeping me honest in those times when I’m making excuses. So, thanks!

While the weight loss goal is still a work in progress, there has been a lot of success. I finished Timberman, which was the big goal for the year. I got stronger and faster on the bike and in the water, and I got experience at longer races. I learned a lot, and saw that I really could improve with hard work. Plus, I met a ton of great people both in person and over the web. On top of that, they just added Club Nationals to the USAT Rankings, and it brought my score up to a 46.54, which is a 4 point improvement over last season. Considering how much more difficult this years schedule was, I’m really proud of that.

If you thought the first year was a yawnfest exciting. the second year is going to be even better. A half-ironman in june with MASSIVE climbs. An Ironman in September, back in Ohio. Oh, and did I mention we’re doing the Ironman for charity? Yep, more details on that in the next couple weeks as Rev3 gets the details ironed out.

Notes:

- I ran tonight, but didnt get past the end of the first mile. I didn’t have the legs to do the rest of the 25 minutes, so I turned around and walked back. I learned earlier this year that on the nights you don’t have it, it’s best not to push it. I did put in a sub-13 minute mile, so I’m pretty happy with that. A year ago there’s no way I could have run that.

- USAT Northeast region announced the state and regional championships. The Regional will be in June at Quassy. and the Massachusetts state championship will be at the Greenfield Lightlife triathlon in early August. Both races are Olympic distance, so we’ll try to fit at least one of those in. It’s good that we didn’t sign up for the half at Quassy because we wouldn’t be able to do regionals otherwise. I’ll have 2011 schedule laid out this week.

Picture Pages N-1

If you like me are a child of the 70′s and 80′s you may remember a program called Picture Pages. Picture pages was a very short program that was part of Captain Kangaroo, and later other programs where you purchased an art book to follow along with the show. I remember fondly doing these puzzles and drawings, but being EXTREMELY disappointed pissed off (especially for a child) when the Mortimer Ichabod Marker that came with my book didn’t make cool “space noises” like the one on TV did.

So what, you may be asking does this have to do with anything? Well, I’m going to be starting my own Picture Pages effective today. My Picture Pages will be a little different though, as they will literally be a page with pictures. Sometimes I get behind on posting photos related to previous events, and when they finally become available, it doesn’t really make sense to go back and add them to the post.

First, a couple of shots of me at Paddy’s. For a mid-October day, it was really quite warm. The thing that stands out to me the most is I look very fat in these pictures. It will be really interesting in a few months to be able to see the drastic difference in how I look running with the weight off.

My hair looks like it’s exploding out the top of my visor

I simply loathe this picture. Fat everywhere.
And today’s final picture: The long awaited picture of me on rollers. it was taken last week on the night I did 15 minutes for the first time. Compared to running, I don’t mind how I look on a bike. I do need a way to get the fan higher as even on high at that height it doesn’t do much to keep me cool. 
Getting somewhere by going nowhere

Notes:
- Last night I did Day 2 of Week 5 again. 5 walk, 8 run, 5 walk,  8 run, 5 walk. The best part is that I’m getting more out of the running sections. I did a bit over 2/3rds of a mile during both runs. I’ve got runs scheduled tomorrow night and Friday before Sunday’s race, and I’m going to do Day 3 both times. If I complete it both times, it’s on to Week 6 next week.

- Tonight, it’s back to the rollers, and maybe a swim too, if I can fit it in around cleaning. 

An Award Winning Weekend

This morning: 321#; 22 pounds & 46 days to go. I went a tiny bit backwards over the weekend, which is obviously not the ideal situation. But for once I feel completely justified in the reason behind it.

This weekend was Wheelworks Multisport year-end party. We celebrated by getting together for food and drinks at a bar here in Boston. Other than the very occasional Friday evening beer while sitting on the couch watching hockey, I’ve been abstaining from alcohol. Not that I’m a big drinker when I got out anyways, but I like beer, and so it is something I sacrifice as part of the training and weight loss process. But this weekend was special as it was an opportunity to look back fondly on a season full of special events.

Most importantly, we got to do it with the people I’ve come to consider friends. Some of them we’ve trained with, some we’ve raced with, and some we just stood around, drank a beer and complained about how much training sucks with. But it’s still great to see them, and having an opportunity to enjoy the year we spent together was nice. I also had a terrific Belgian white ale, the name of which I didn’t learn. And did I mention there was cake? Normally I don’t like raspberry, but whoever made this cake made it just right, and the chocolate cake combined with the raspberry filling was the perfect balance.

Now, that award I mentioned. We do team awards every year at the year end party. Some of them are serious, like our “Mr & Mrs. Triathlete” awards, or the awards for the folks who spend all year leading training rides. Some are less serious like our “Best Cheerleader”, or “Person most likely to stop you from swimming the wrong way across Walden Pond”. Though it was rumored (and for once, it was not rumored just by me) that I was nominated for multiple awards; the club was kind enough to give me “Most comfortable in their own skin” award.

I believe this is the inaugural year for this award. It was given in recognition of being out there, racing at my current level of fitness and well, fatness. Apparently, they think it takes courage to race at the size I am. And I agree, it does take some courage to toe the start line, at any weight. Every athlete who dares themselves to train, to push themselves outside of their comfort zone, and to give everything inside them on race day to realize the goals they train for is someone with courage and dedication.

I will admit that to race at my size you have to make an agreement with yourself that you might not be suffering the most, but you might be suffering the longest. I think it does take some courage to make that bargain. But to be completely honest, I’m fueled far more by fear than by courage. Fear of being this fat for the rest of my life. Fear of health problems that either impede me from enjoying my later years, or worse maybe even killing me. Rachelle is already 13 years younger than me, and women outlive men by about 5 years on average here in the US. I might not be able to do anything about the age difference, or our genetic pre-dispositions to reach a certain age. But I’ll be damned if I’m making her go through 18 years at the end of her life without me.

I was really honored to receive any award, let alone one that was so personal. A nice cap to my year. Now, back to training for next year.

Notes:

- While I ate and drank in celebration on Saturday night, I didn’t throw away the whole weekend. I took Friday as a recovery day, as my legs have REALLY been feeling my return to exercise since being sick. Saturday afternoon, I got my front wheel fixed and got out on the Esplanade. I have to say I think the roller workouts are paying off already. I did almost 40 minutes of pedaling time in a 50 minute workout, and averaged over 15 MPH. There are a lot of starts and stops, and places where you have to slow due to road crossings, path congestion, etc. Usually, we’d average around 13.5 for an interval of that size. I was able to get to cruising speed much faster, and was spinning my way out of my middle chain ring. I wound up spending the majority of the ride in my big ring, even when on the short inclines. Cruising speed was around 17 MPH, and felt pretty easy.

- Sunday, I went back to day one of week five of my Couch to 5k plan. I’ll be running that same workout this evening, and then moving through the rest of the weeks plan to finish with a 25 minute run on Friday. This coming Sunday Rach and I are racing the America’s Hometown Thanksgiving 5k in Plymouth. This is the race where I set my PR last year, and I’m hopeful to better that time this year on a fast and flat track.

- In other news, I have volunteered to join the club board as the person responsible for PR and Media. I’m not sure what the position fully entails, as it’s a new position. I’ll be helping with the sponsorship newsletter, and maybe getting notice out to outlets on club events. It’ll be nice to give back in a way I am easily comfortable with.

- Oh, and I still have pictures to post of me on the rollers. And somehow the title of this post doesn’t mention rollers.

I will not mention rollers in this title… oops

Just notes on a busy day:

- Comments should now be working. The new template was a little grumpy about them and is currently set to use a pop-up to enter them. I prefer inline comments. Remind me why i changed the template again? *sigh*

- Im down to 318.0. 19 pounds, 50 days. I don’t know how my math was screwed up previously. 19 days left in November, 31 days in December = 50.

- Last night I did almost 15 minutes on the rollers. I learned the fan needs to be on a chair, and the speed needs to be set higher than “low”. Without those two aspects, it isn’t very helpful. It’s still hard but I’m getting stronger. Once I’m actually using the fan effectively, I’ll probably be able to keep cool enough to go longer.

- Looks like our November run schedule is being dropped down to just the America’s Hometown Thanksgiving 5k. Rach has practice Thanksgiving morning, which eliminates both of the races we were considering for that day.

Rolling away

Can you believe I am still milking the fact that I am using my rollers for cheesy titles? Seriously, even I am amazed at the length of time I am able to beat this dead horse. While I am hysterically historically known for my ability to draw at least a smile from my wry and witty awful puns, this is really pushing it.

Last night I got back on the rollers as my first workout following my weekend of cold recovery. I’m now up to about 10 minutes of being able to keep my balance while riding the rollers straight through before I need a break. By need a break, of course I mean am drenched in sweat and am wobbling all over the rollers.

I reached out to the fine folks in the Clydesdale section of Bike Forums with the question as to why riding the rollers is so challenging. I completed a 56 mile ride this fall, certainly I shouldnt be working so hard to ride just 10 minutes. I was informed of a few things that made obvious sense, but that I hadn’t really stopped to think about.

- Rollers require you to pedal constantly for motion and to maintain balance. When we ride our bikes on roads, once we get enough momentum, we can mix in some coasting time, especially on extended flats or downhills. I know I’ve done it in every race, and on a lot of training rides. I’ve been told I’ll see a huge benefit from riding like this because it will build my pedaling endurance.

- When we ride, we’re cooled by the air travelling around us. When on rollers, there is no air travelling around me. That means I get no relief from the mid 70′s temperature of our apartment, and that’s just the starting point. All the extra heat I generate has nowhere to go so it just builds around me. The BF folks suggested I put a fan in front of me (duh), which will also give me a focal point to ride towards.

- Being new to rollers, I’m nervous about my balance. Nervousness causes us to tense up as we ride, grip the bike tighter, clench abdominal muscles, etc. Spending time with the rollers will allow me to relax, relaxing will allow me to spend more time on the rollers. Sort of a catch 22/vicious circle there, but gutting through the nerves will eventually pay off.

The end result was that I rode for 10 minutes, sweated a ton, replenished with water, and woke up down 2 pounds from yesterday. This morning I started the day at 320.4, so I have 21.4 pounds to lose and 48 days in which to do it.

New look, same outlook

The past few days I’ve really made sure to take it easy and use the time to recover from being sick. I am finally feeling dramatically better today, and I am looking forward to getting back to working out tonight. I had planned to yesterday but still was really tired by the time I got home from work. So I made the decision to take one more day away from physical activity and went to bed early.

I haven’t been wasting all of that time sitting around though. Much of that time I spent looking at new blog layouts, getting ready for next year. I found one I really like, and have implemented it. There are still a couple of the old features I need to re-add as well as some new ones I will be adding. In addition, the picture at the top is a placeholder until I can get the image I want ready.

I try not to spend too much time talking about the actual act of blogging, because it isn’t something everyone cares about. But I know that many of my readers have their own sites, and take the time and effort to care for them. I’m probably a bit more involved with mine than some other folks are because I created web sites as part of making a living in the early and mid 90′s.

I don’t put the effort in to write much HTML anymore, but I do from time to time feel the site needs an upgrade. The changes this week were prompted by the fact that I’ll have been blogging for a full year as of next Friday. Originally I was going to wait to unveil the new site until then, but I wanted to get all the kinks out and new features in place so that they’d all be ready by then.

While the look is changing a bit, my outlook hasn’t I’m strong in my resolve to focus clearly on the path to the big races we’re doing next season, and of doing those races as a thinner version of me. My eating of recent save one meal on Sunday has been very good since last week. And now that I’m feeling better, I’ll be back into our off-season workout plan tonight.