The end of 2010 and the XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge powered by H20 Audio

Here we are the end of another year. Actually, that’s only partially true. This isn’t just another year. It was the year I went to Europe, it was the year I finished Timberman. It was the year we settled in and lived our life on the east coast. Our first anniversary and our first Christmas on our own. It wasn’t perfect, and with my current memory problems, it doesn’t end on a completely positive note. But it was great, and it was amazing, and it’s over.

I got stronger, I got faster, I got smarter, and I got lighter. Last year on New Years morning, I was 337 pounds. I weighed in this morning at 313.8 pounds. That’s over 20 pounds I’ve lost this year. It’s not enough, but it’s progress none the less. I’ve dug deeper inside and found a strength I didn’t know I had on more than one occasion. I’ve also come up short at times, like in the MA State Triathlon.
There are a lot of things I learned about myself this year, and while I’ve changed a lot this year, some of that change was really just me becoming even more the person I already was. I did a lot less underachieving this year, even when I came in last. I still have a lot more learning and growing to do in the year ahead, and I’ll be pushing myself further and harder than even what I did this year.
I’ve got a lot of goals for this year, most of them I’ve already laid out in the blog, but the most important ones are to be healthier physically and fiscally next year. Rach and I are lucky to live the life we do and I want to ensure we continue to live that life. Rach graduates in a few months, and will enter the working world. That might entail a move to another city, but we hope to get to stay right where we are. To help take the stress out of our move, I want to sock away some money, and be as healthy as I possibly can by that time. 
Our big athletic goals are looming a bit, but they’re still plenty of time to prepare for them. Mooseman is 6 months out, and Rev3 is 9 months out. We’re going to have our hands full with that, but it’s going to be an awesome ride. I’ve dreamt several times of crossing the finish line at Cedar Point with my parents waiting for me on the other side. 
So as the last piece of business for the year of 2010, I leave you with the results of the Chubsmas Challenge:
Chuck: 255- 249.5 = 5.5 pounds lost
Ben: 321.5 – 313.8 = 7.7 pounds lost
So, I won by 2.2 pounds. It took a really strong week to do so, and I think Chuck really kicked ass. We’re going to do a longer challenge next year, but in the meantime Chuck will be warming up his pipes for the Lady Gaga video we’re all excited to see.

relief and disbelief

Yesterday was a rough day for me, having all sorts of problems with my memory, and with some guidance from the nurse at my Dr.’s office, I decided it was time to get a look at the inside of my head. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the crowbar, so instead I went to the ER for some electronic imaging. In a little less than 3 hours later, I was out of there test results in hand.

The good news is that they said there aren’t any obvious problems going on that can be seen with a CT scan. They still want me to get the MRI on 1/2 because it provides clearer pictures in case there is something minor going on that can be seen on imaging. Plus, I’ll probably have a follow up with a neurologist, as not seeing a cause for symptoms doesn’t mean there isn’t anything going on.

The thing that none of my friends will believe is that my brain looks completely normal.

Notes:

- Finally, I am actually going to post that H2O Audio Flex earbuds review tomorrow.

- I didn’t even go walking last night as I spent the majority of my evening in the ER.

Back to work, but not back to working out

This morning in the shower, I had another memory misstep. I simply could not remember the name of the college at BU that Rachelle is attending. I was thinking about it because of an email I’d read before I started getting ready for work. I kept coming up with Archer and other similar names that had a prominent A sound in the first syllable and a softer a or e sound in the second syllable. It took me about 10-15 minutes to remember “Sargent College”. I drive by the building on average once a day. Plus I hear or talk about it often enough that I’ve never had trouble recalling the name before.

It’s almost like I’m hearing a faded echo of specific memories but it takes a lot of effort to find the actual memory. Almost like my brain is making the effort to find a new path to it, like the old path is broken or blocked. It literally feels like there’s a roadblock between the active thinking part (the processor and RAM in computerese) of my brain, and the storage (hard drive) part of my brain, like a cable has been snapped. I have to admit, I’m now more worried than I was a couple weeks ago. It just doesn’t seem like it can be related to the header I took during Landmine because I had none of these symptoms a couple months ago.

Today Rach is swimming and riding right after she gets off work. Me, I’ll be walking around the track. I guess it’s something, but it’s not much, and it’s really frustrating that I can do so little. Especially as we approach 6 months from Mooseman, when I really need to start training.

Back to reality… almost.

The long holiday weekend is over for most, but Rach and I each have the day off today. It’s a good thing too, because last night Boston got blanketed by 16 inches of snow thanks to a “wicked bad Nor’easter”. It’s gorgeous and snowy out, so Rach and I ventured out for a walk to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to make use of our gift card, and for me to try out my new Garmin Forerunner 305!

Rachelle took this picture

It took me a little while to get the satellite connection as we had started walking so as not to freeze in the 30 MPH wind gusts and snow/sleet mix. But once it going a couple blocks from our house, it seemed to work pretty darn well as the following graphic shows:

The Forerunner 305 has all of the features I’ve been looking for, including the ability to add workouts to the blog with just a couple of minutes work. I really like the layout of the data as well. It’s simple to setup and use, and you can upload your workouts to the Garmin Connect website, meaning you can access your workout history from any computer. It even lets you enter personal profile information to help determine maximum heart rate and training zones.
I took a few days off from training to hopefully reduce some of the symptoms I’ve been having with my memory. I have been feeling better, but it’s difficult to tell if that’s due to reduced stress from time off work, more sleep, or the lack of heavy physical activity. Part of what makes it difficult to tell is that my brain hasn’t been tasked nearly as much as it would be over a few days of work. 
Because of this, I carefully monitored my eating over the holiday. By monitor, I mean look at everything I put in my mouth. The result of that monitoring is that I determined I ate too damn much, and decided to put a stop to it right away. Yesterday I was straight on with my points, and today I have been as well. In fact I should be under today if all goes according to plan. Not only have the points been sharp, but I’m making very healthy food choices as well. The worst thing Ive done the past 2 days is been right up against my reccomended daily sodium. 
The blizzard seems to have closed FitRec, so I’m going to do some light cardio with the Wii, put the Wheelworks year end newsletter to bed, and watch some hockey.
Notes:
- The Wheelworks Team has been kicking butt in the National Challenge Competition, currently sitting in 31st place out of 68 active teams. There are some monster teams, much larger than ours with more than 10 times the number of miles we have. In our division, we’re currently 5th overall and closing in on 4th. Plus, we’re 3rd out of the 5 MA teams competing, and closing in on 2nd
- The H20Audio Flex review will run tomorrow as I just didn’t have time to get it formatted yet.

Think about what you have

Yesterday I was more than a little frustrated with the fact that I’m really on the bench for the first time since getting into triathlons 2 years ago. Several readers were kind enough to give me encouragement through comments and via private communication, and to remind me this is probably just a little bump in the road, and they’re right. With all the positive things going on around me, I got down a little too easy, and I want to thank the best people in the world (the readers of this blog, natch) for reminding me of that.

In fact, I decided since I can’t train for the next few days I’m going to have a little extra fun. I won’t be able to have any beer for most of the next 9 months, but for the next few days, a beer a day sounds like fun. Just 1 mind you, and I’ll be exploring the Trappist beers of Belgium, and sharing them with Rach. Usually, I roll with the punches pretty well, but these past couple months I’ve been blowing small things out of proportion. So, I’m gonna do my best to get my cheery disposition back in place, especially now that the “blahs” caused by the change in seasons should be over.

Plus, I got some good news from the doctor as well. As an additional step, they ran the standard set of cholesterol and diabetes tests on me when I went and visited her to prep for my MRI next week. Everything came back either good or very good:

HDL (Good cholesterol): 39. 40-60 is the normal range, so I’m just a bit low; but for HDL the higher the better. Last year I got a 43, so this has gone down a bit. I have fish oil pills but haven’t been taking them. I will now, as this continues to be a bit lower than I’d like.

LDL: (Bad cholesterol): 78. 0-138 is the normal range, so I am in awesome shape for this test. In fact, my bad cholesterol dropped from 102 last year, so this has improved 3 years in a row.

Triglycerides: 153. This is the tiniest bit high, but because I wasn’t fasting when the test was taken and my numbers are in general good, she said not to worry about it. My number last year was 109 when fasting, so that’s probably closer to the mark.

Hemoglobin A1C: 5.5 Any number under 6.0 is a good number. It means I don’t have diabetes, and that is something I do have some concerns about as my father is Type II diabetic. His is under control with medication and diet, so it’s not like we have a big family history.

There were a couple other tests to check my thyroid as a potential cause of the memory issues, and to test my kidney function, along with the standard metabolic tests, and everything came back normal. So while I might not be in very good shape yet, my blood already is.

And of course what better way than Christmas with my family, even if it is through Skype, to get infused with a big dose of holiday cheer. When I was growing up, we spent Christmas Eve night at my maternal grandmothers with my moms big family exchanging gifts and eating a big meal. Then we’d do gifts with just my parents, my sister, and I on Christmas morning. After my nieces were born, that changed, and now we do Christmas presents on Christmas eve morning as the girls spend Christmas with their dads.

Presents started at 6:30 and between a run to the bagel place for Rach and I’s breakfast, and 2 hours of watching my family open presents, it’s been a full day and it isn’t even 9 AM as I type this. In fact, Rach is already back napping. Between my parents, my sister, the 2 girls, and one of the girls boyfriends, it’s a full house there, so doing it remotely wasn’t terrible, though they’re going to enjoy one heck of a lunchtime meal today. And there’s nothing like being home for the holidays, even if I have been looking forward to spending this Christmas with just Rach.

Of course, we didn’t just watch my family open gifts, we opened what they sent us, and both of the gifts my parents got me are ideal for my mission over these next 9 months. First, I got an electronic kitchen scale so I no longer have to guess at the weight of my portions so I can properly measure the calories included. The big gift though, was a Garmin Forerunner 305!!! It was the #1 present on my list, and I love it already. While I won’t be able to run or ride hard with it for a while, I already have it charging and will take a very light and easy ride out in front of the house today just to see it in action. I’ll walk a very flat, slow, and easy couple of miles just see how it performs. I’m super excited to have this awesome training device. I’m going to find a way to track a majority of my workouts with it, and hopefully be able sync them up to the blog.

So maybe I can’t really work out right now, and I’m having trouble remembering a few words here and there as I rest up from whatever it is that’s causing these memory issues, but I can enjoy the holidays, and whether or not I get anymore gifts (the giant pile of presents under the tree indicates I will), I already have a great many things that don’t come in wrapping paper that make my life great.

Notes:

- I’m taking the weekend off as usual, so Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and if not… Happy Saturday! If you’re celebrating anything this holiday season, or just celebrating life, enjoy this time time.

- Just because I’m going to have a few beers doesn’t mean I’m giving up on winning the Chubsmas Challenge. I’m going to be walking a lot the next 7 days, and if I’m feeling better, my is hopefully to still race on 1/1.

Not feeling like much of a triathlete

It’s a tough break that my memory issues seem to be related to the strenuousness of my workouts and that in order to get the symptoms to subside, I need to stop training. To be a triathlete, you’re either racing or training; right now I’m doing neither and it SUCKS. Rach has always told me her athletes are basically a combination of pissed off and depressed when they can’t play due to injury, and after 2 days, I’m already starting to see why and my races aren’t for months.

I can’t train, so I can’t eat. Even setting the Chubsmas Challenge aside, that’s the biggest blow I’m feeling right now. I’m working from home today, which is good because I’m sure I’d have a crap day at work feeling like this. Rach and I are shopping for our Christmas dinner and my plans for that dinner are being dramatically reduced. Sure maybe it’s a bit healthier this way, but I really wanted to enjoy that meal.

Then there’s the idea that I’m getting all these Christmas gifts related to our hobby sport obsession (my training socks, wetsuit, and potentially other stuff) that I have no chance of using anytime soon. It’s not much fun to get christmas gifts you can’t use.

The last thing is that I just can’t work out. When it’s cold and windy I don’t usually want to work out, and I get lazy, or I gripe and make Rach drag me to workout. Now, that I can’t work out, I’m thinking about every day I was too tired or not in the mood to work out, and how much I wish I could now. I’ve never had a real injury  until now that has stopped me from training until now.

I guess even when it comes to working out, you don’t know what you have til it’s gone.

The H20Audio XTERRA Chubsmas Challenge Week 3 Weigh In: Powered by fat!

Each year as the holiday season seems to become more and more commercialized, the warnings about the mass consumption of consumer goods seem to grow louder and louder, with most of us growing increasingly deaf to them. I know the economy is in the dumps, and so it honestly gave me a clear conscience to spend as I felt like for this holiday season. Knowing I was helping a sagging economy as one of the lucky ones who is gainfully employed made me feel good for reasons other than the traditional giving of gifts to love ones.

Where I should have headed the warnings was in regards to physical consumption. Between 2 work holiday parties, dinner out a couple nights, and the dozens of cookies my wife baked, I was hopelessly sunk this week by the lack of willpower against the food around me. I did more than my fair share of working out, and I even got in some pretty hard workouts.

Chuck ran into very similar problems, and had the added difficulty of dealing with an all-you-can-eat night at the hockey game last night. They have the best food at those games, including unbelievable Skyline Chili cheese dogs. Sooo yummy. I’d have walked out of there up at least 5 pounds, so I’d say Chuck deserves a medal for his performance against such overwhelming odds.

Anyways, here’s this weeks less than spectacular tally.

Ben: 316.5 + 1.5 = 318
Chuck: 251 + 3 = 254

Total lost:

Ben = 3.5
Chuck = 1

We’ve now got just a week and a half to go. And with Christmas and New Years Eve in the mix, it’s crunch time. Even worse, I have a new wrinkle on my end. My memory problems have been getting worse so the plan is for me to take a few days off from serious workouts in order to see if the symptoms get better in response to the rest. It’s potentially post-concussion syndrome as a result of the header I took during the Landmine Classic.

So while I’m taking it easy, with little more than some walking to burn fat, Chuck will be headed south to spend time with his family where the gravy flows, but walking the dogs is as much a part of the holiday as the mistletoe is.

Notes:

- The memory symptoms have been bad enough that I’ve also scheduled an MRI to be safe. Talk about nervous, my memory is a huge part of my job, and while my work hasn’t been suffering yet, I’ve really had to work hard to overcome the holes in my recall in order to keep things moving.

- While I talked about the food as a big part of the struggles this week, I think we all know the real problem: Lack of a new sponsor for the week 3 weigh in. Remember, company representatives, we have week 4 and the finale weigh in left. Wouldn’t your company benefit greatly from sponsoring a weight loss competition between to late 30′s fat computer folks on a blog that has almost as many readers as your local NPR station has listeners?

I’m not ready yet

It seems that my body is still under the impression that December is the off-season, and that I shouldn’t be ramping up training right now. For the past few weeks, Ive been slowly playing catch up to the amount of training Rachelle’s been doing. She seems to be a bit more prepared for the build up this year than I am. That’s not to say I’m not getting through the workouts, I’m just really having to push to get through some of them.

Last nights workout was particularly grueling, the kind of workout that you know will make you better and stronger, but flat out sucks while you’re in the middle of it. It was another bike workout, which I normally love, but this time we had a heavy focus on one-legged pedaling. We’ve done some of this before, and in short sessions it’s ok, but we had 2 sets of 12 minutes of single leg pedaling, and it was freaking brutal. I have a bit of a hitch in my pedal stroke with my right leg, it’s less smooth than my left, and it makes doing this exercise really tiring. And really, really good for me and my riding.

The past few days I’ve been complaining about working out. Not in the real “I don’t want to do it” way, but rather in the “If you leave me alone, I’ll wind up doing some workout, but not the one we had planned, but if you nag me a little, I’ll go with you and do the one we have planned”. These are the days I’m extra thankful to have a truly motivated person like Rachelle in my life. Yesterday was our first real snow, and I’ve just been really tired lately between work, Christmas prep, early darkness, and hard workouts. I wanted to stay inside and nap, but when I tried to Rach wound up being the one getting some rest. It’s just not fair, I say.

All of this isn’t real complaining, it’s just kind of musing on the fact that things will be much harder in terms of the races we’re doing and we need to work that much harder to prepare and my body is giving me a little push back right now. I think once Christmas has passed things will get easier to mentally overcome the resistance. Because when I get out about 80 miles into our big race, I need to have a really big reserve to dig into.

Notes:

- Tomorrow is weigh in day, and I’m thinking I’ll be flatlining this week. Just have to hope Chuck doesn’t take too much of a lead going into the last week and a half.

- Thursday I’ll be posting my review of the H2O Audio Flex earbuds.

Oops! Did I just eat that?

So, To put it mildly my time in Food Central didn’t go exactly as planned. Thursday night I had 3 beers, a plate of dinner, some appetizers and dessert. Sure, not as bad as I could have been, but not as good as I’d have liked. Friday, I fell straight into the trap that a pot luck holiday is and didn’t leave until I had a rather full plate plus some seconds. While I had avoided fried food for a week, I didn’t do so hot on Friday, including my boss bringing McDonald’s fries and another co-worker making hamburger wrapped hot dogs with cheese. I didn’t even know that was a food! It was really good though. Rach & I’s cannoli’s went over really well, and I only had a small one.

But then my friend Jim Zubkavich (aka Zub) was in town for the weekend, and long story short we had an awesome time on Friday which included a midnight trip to McDonald’s where I ate not 1 but 2 sandwiches. I don’t know that many people in Boston and though I have met some really great people, I’m not all that close with them yet, so it was nice to have a friend I’ve known for a long time around for just a few days. He’ll be back in March for PAX East, along with Chuck and a crew of writers from Gaming Nexus.

I am happy to report that Saturday and Sunday went significantly better. Saturday, we went to the gym for a bike and swim, and found that there have been high end exercise cycles in the gym since late summer that we didn’t know about. Using the X-Dream system, these bikes essentially act as a mountain bike simulator as opposed to an exercise bike. We had an hour bike workout planned, but the head to head racing was so hard, we did four different 5 minute races and were flat exhausted. It really kicked our butts. It felt far more like being on a real bike than any other cycling I’ve done in doors except my rollers. Then we got in the pool for around 55 minutes and I got in 1600 yards. Other than a box of sno caps and a hot dog while watching Tron on friday night, I ate pretty carefully as well.

Sunday I ate great, did a 4 mile run in my new shoes (just a new pair like my old ones), and really worked hard on making good choices. Because we aren’t going to any other parties. it should be fairly easy to avoid overeating the rest of the holidays.

News:

- I’ll be finishing up my review of the H20 Audio Flex headset in the next couple days, and they’re definitely worth a go if you ever run in the rain. Right now, they’re on sale at 2 pairs for $50 at H2OAudio.com. Just add 2 pair to your cart and the price drops. No codes or anything needed to get the deal.

- I’m really get excited for Christmas. Not that it’s triathlon related, other than I’ll finally get to unwrap my wetsuit again and get my tri stuff organized. I probably should have moved a Garmin 305 to the top of my list, but if I don’t get it, I can always buy one in the spring before racing season.

- We don’t yet have a sponsor for Wednesday weigh in. If no one steps up, I may have to get creative.

Food Central

I am halfway through the period of time I’m calling Food Central. We had Rachelle’s work party last night, and mine is in an hour. I will cop to having 3 beers, and a decent amount to appetizers, but I only had 1 serving of lasagna and 1 small slice of desert tart with blueberries and strawberries on it. When we got home Rach and I made 45 cannolis for my work party today. It was a 48 cannoli kit, so 3 were eaten between us. In my defense they were small cannolis.

Today there will essentially be 5 or 6 different meals at the same time of various themes to choose from. I am giving myself free reign to try multiple things from multiple meals but nothing bigger than a couple of fork fulls.

I didn’t get on the scale this morning and won’t again until tomorrow, but I am running this afternoon between work and hanging out with a friend this evening. I’ll weigh in tomorrow and get back working on the challenge the minute this meal ends. I had red meat last night, so I’ll effort to avoid that today, and I have successfully evaded fried food all week.