Sunday, 22 April 2012

WR3 Race Report

On Saturday, April 21 2012, I ran the Wear Red Road Race (WR3). It was a half-marathon in support of military families. The race started at the rink in Pownal and ended at the Queen Charlotte Armory on the Charlottetown waterfront. The race cost $35 (early registration) which included timing chip services, shirt and goody bag, and a post-race meal prepared by culinary students. Not a bad deal!

Here is the race website if anyone wanted to check it out:

This is my first race of 2012. I was supposed to go in a 10Kf 2012. I was  on April 7th, but had to drop out due to a fever. I was considering toughing it out, but thought otherwise when I was exhausted from going out for morning coffee! Really hate the DNS, but it would have been pretty ugly had I went. Oh well... registration was only $10 and went to a worthy cause anyway.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned fever was a symptom of a flu, which essentially prevented me from training for over a week. I started feeling better on the 15th, only 6 days before WR3. The last week is supposed to be taper week, but I was in a bit of a dilemma on what I should do since I missed a full week of training. After asking friends and an online running team advice, I decided on one slow, long-ish run of 8 miles, one speed workout (3 * 1 mile repeats @8:20m/m) to wake up my fast twitch muscles, and another 4 mile easy run. The runs went fairly well, except I had coughing attacks during every one, likely leftover symptom of the flu. I went to the doctors and was given an asthma puffer to help my cough for the race.

WR3 was my third half marathon. My times on my first two were 1:55 and 1:52 respectively. My pre-flu goal was to beat 1:52, but I was really not sure what to expect given I was just getting over an illness as well as missing a full week of training.

The race

We boarded the bus the Pownal rink at 8:20. I spent the ride there eavesdropping on the conversation of the people sitting behind me. Basically, the guy was telling the girl he was sitting with how brutal some of the hills on the course were!

We arrived at the rink about 10 minutes before the 9:00am start time, just enough time for a final bathroom break and quick stretch….then off we were!

The first mile was typical for me, extremely heavy breathing - the type that would make Darth Vader proud. For the first time, I actually paid attention to those around me…only one other person was breathing as heavily as me. What’s up with that?

Me (#2030) about 2 miles in

Anyway, after the first mile, my breathing settled down to normal and I settled into a nice cruising pace on a relatively flat first half of the course. Then, just as I was nearing hallway point of the race, one of the most inspiring moments of any race I ever participated in occurred. I passed Camp Gencheff, which is a summer camp for physically and mentally challenged children. I assumed nobody would be there this early in the season, but a group of about 20 special needs kids gathered…hooting and hollering, loudly cheering on every runner as we went past. It gave me a real boost for the steep hill that came shortly thereafter.

The second half of the race had a lot more hills, but fortunately, we made a northward turn around the 12K mark, and there was a fairly strong wind from the south. Also, at this point, the next runner ahead of me was about a ¼ of mile ahead. I didn’t take the time to look behind me, but I could hear footsteps and breathing. At the 15K mark, I caught up to the runners ahead of me and started passing people. In the final 6K, I passed eight people and didn’t get passed by any (not that I was keeping track LOL). The only reason I am bragging about this is because it was the exact opposite situation in my previous two half marathons…I really ran out of gas and was tons of people passed me!

As we approached the final 2K, I took a peek at my Garmin and realized I was definitely on track for a PR, and possibly to break 1:50. Unfortunately, we took a southward turn and the strong wind that was my friend turned into my enemy. I plugged away against the wind and finished at 1:50:17, an improvement of 1:41 from my last half!
At the finish line! I always gun it in the last few hundred yards and usually forget to look up and smile. Despite what it looks like, I was not doing the dry heave thing...I actually felt great!

Official results can be found here .

Post-race analysis

Before I got sick, my long runs were 15-16 miles…way beyond the half marathon distance. I think this really paid off in the final 5K of the WR3. My first two half marathons, the final 5K were pretty tough…I slowed down considerably and was completely wiped crossing the finish line. I could not fathom the prospect of ever doubling the distance for a full Marathon. On this day however, as I crossed the finish line, I felt I could have kept running for who knows how much further. Even though I am comparing two different courses, my Garmin data showed to drastically different stories between my second half marathon and my third:

5k 10k 15K Final
Time for last 6K
Race 1 0:27:06 0:54:27 1:21:29 1:55:10
Race 2 0:24:53 0:50:44 1:17:15 1:52:07
Race 3 0:26:15 0:52:29 1:19:35 1:50:18

Compared to my second half marathon, I was almost 2 minutes slower in # 3 at the 15K mark, yet I finished 2 minutes better faster at the finish!

Overall, the WR3 was a very positive experience...looking forward to next year!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Monitoring the progress

Since we are almost three months into 2012, I thought I would review my January goals:
Goal update:
1.      Get down to 188lbs - as additional motivation, I have resolved to not drink any that delicious, yet high caloric beverage known as beer until goal is reached- that includes Superbowl Sunday and St. Paddy's day! Status: March 23: Complete, kinda. Goal was reached March 3 and I did not break my no beer or bad food vow until 188 was reached. Of course I had a celebratory meal and was not as careful eating the following week which bumped me back up to the low 190s.  I am back to eating fairly clean now, and have my sights on 178-ish as the weight I want to be at going forward. Since I am 5’11”, 178 would mean I not “overweight” per the BMI scale, even though I think the BMI metric is very flawed…Sidney Crosby is overweight per BMI!

2. Do 100 consecutive push-ups. Last time I tried, I got up to 40. Status March 23: Not met. Have not really started.

3. Complete my first full marathon in October in 4:15 or less. Status March 23: Since the race is still several months away, the goal is obviously incomplete. I did register for the marathon, and have started extending my long runs past the half marathon distance of 13 miles.

4. Complete a half-marathon under 1:48 - date and location TBD. I have two halfs under my belt already - 1:52 is my personal best. Status March 23: Incomplete, have yet to run a half yet in 2012, however I am registered for two this spring. Based on some long runs I have done lately, I think I am fine in the endurance department for a half, I just need to start working on my speed.

5. Build enough endurance to complete the Dopey challenge in January 2013. Dopey challenge is an event during the Disney World Marathon weekend. It basically involves a 5K race on Friday, plus the Goofy challenge, which is a half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full marathon on Sunday. Yikes!  Status March 23: Will not be complete until Jan 2013. However registration opens April 10…a big first step!

In other news...
My weekly schedule update: The schedule I set for myself on Jan 6 has deviated somewhat. Most notably, I stopped being such a chicken for cold weather running and actually got quite a bit in since January. I completed less Rushfit workouts than I projected (I do about 2 per week), and have not done any Insanity workouts. I am continuously modifying my personal circuit training routine. I try to include as many compound moves that combine strength training with cardio. I have also extended the routine to a fourth round.

Run training: As previously mentioned, I am getting much more running in than I thought I would. I get at least 3 runs in per week, often more. The three that I be sure to get in: a weekend long run that I am slowly extending (now at 15 miles), a 6.5 mile tempo run, and 4-5 times around a hilly 1.7 miles look near my house.

Racing: As I mention I have already signed up for three events

April 21: Wear Red Road Race. This is a half marathon were I run from Pownal, PEI to downtown Charlottetown.
May 20: Blue Nose. Another half marathon, this time through the streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
October 14: PEI Marathon: My first full! Run from Brackley Beach PEI to downtown Charlottetown.

Also, I plan on doing, but registration not yet opened for:

Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World next January. Registration opens April 10.

Red Island Relay in May. This is a 5 stage relay race. I will run 8km, my brother in law will bike, I will run 10km, he will bike again, then we will both kayak like 5km.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

How I lost 50lbs in one summer - Part 2

Last time, I spoke of how I changed my diet to help me drop 50 lbs over the summer. Now I will go over the other half of the equation: burning calories. There are two ways to burn calories: engage in physical activity, and metabolism.

You can probably reach weight loss goals by just enough cutting calories and allowing your metabolism to burn off the calories you eat, but engaging in physical activity will not only accelerate the weight loss process, but also provide you with several physical and mental health benefits.

If you are going to try to do what I did (at least the physical activity component), PLEASE start off slow, especially if you are out of shape.

Starting out

Since I often became out of breath walking up a couple flights of stairs, I knew I had to start out slowly. I got a membership to a local gym, hit the elliptical, and did bit of free weight training. For home, I bought a few Biggest Loser workout videos as well as wii fit. I kept at it and things were going well – the pounds started slowly coming off and just as importantly, my fitness was improving. As the days and weeks progressed, I could go longer at tougher levels on the elliptical and the workout videos became less challenging.

The "one" exercise.

Summer was starting and with an improved fitness base, I really wanted to ramp up my weight loss. I did some Internet research and came up with the perfect fat burning exercise: hill sprints.

Benefits of hill sprints
  • It is free, and no equipment needed
  • It is safe in terms of less chance of pulling muscles, as your limbs are not attaining full speed.
  • Most importantly, it is effective. Not only does the workout itself torch many calories, but also the intense nature of this interval workout keeps your metabolism revving hours after the fact.

Fortunately, I live close to my old  Junior High School, which has a soccer field and track sunken in a big bowl. Makes for awesome sledding in the winter, but even better for conditioning and weight loss when there was no ice and snow.
Again, I started off slow. I picked the smallest hill and jogged up 10 times. It was tough, but I kept at it, every second day, hit the same hill. After a week or so, it started becoming easier, so I increased the number of repetitions as well as my speed.

The first hill:

After a few weeks of that I graduated to the bigger hills of the bowl. I never measured these hills, but I would say they are about 50-75 yards long depending where in the bowl they are located and have an angle of slightly more than 45 degrees in some places. 

The Stonepark bowl:

I would run up the hill as fast as I could, then walk down for recovery. This is what I did three or four times a week for the summer of 2008. On off days, I would do wii fit or a Biggest Loser workout video.

By the end of the summer my workout consisted of 30-35 hill sprints. I weighed 50 lbs less!

The aftermath

I remember a few years before going to get some burgers from McDonalds. On the way home, I got stuck at an intersection. There was a race going on. Here I was munching on a greasy Quarter Pounder, watching these runners go by. At first I felt pretty annoyed about being held up. Then I started feeling envious of the runners. They were doing something I could not do and never would be able to. Well I was right about not being able to then, but wrong about never being able to.

The hill sprints opened a whole new world to me. It made me the most fit I have been in my life, including when I played football and rugby in high school. I remembered that day waiting at the intersection watching the runners go by with a greasy burger in my hand. So I went for 5K run. I ran it easily without stopping once. Surprisingly, the intense short bursts of activity also greatly improved my aerobic capacity and I was able cover longer distances without specifically training for it. The next summer, I entered in a 10K race that ironically crossed that same intersection. I probably felt more satisfaction going by that intersection that I did at the finish line of the race.

I am not going to lie to anyone. Hill sprints are tough and not overly enjoyable. But if your goal is to lose fat and get in great physical condition quick, I can’t think of any better way.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

How I lost 50 lbs in one summer - Part 1

I am often asked what I did to lose all that weight in a short period of time…actually, not so much lately now that people are used to the slimmer me. I am not a certified personal trainer or professional dietician, so if I mention something that anyone feels is unhelpful to weight loss, I am sorry…I am just stating what worked in my specific situation.

Before I get going, I want to clarify the term “weight loss”. Technically, anyone could easily lose weight in a short period of time by losing water, much like fighters do before a weight in to get into a lower weight division. This is called cutting weight, even though literally you lost weight. So in the context of this blog, “weight loss” means much more than differences on the scale. It also means losing fat and gaining muscle, reducing belly size, fitting into smaller clothing, ect.

Excluding certain things like pregnancy or some medical conditions, in the simplest terms, weight change boils down to calories in vs calories out. A surplus of approximately 3,500 calories results in one additional pound of fat on your body, likewise, a 3,500-calorie deficit will cause you to lose one pound of fat. The one thing that increases your calorie count is consuming calories – eating and drinking. There are two ways to burn calories – physical activity and metabolism. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, for anyone wanting or needing to lose weight, it is much easier said than done!

I will discuss the “calorie in” part of it today, and the “calorie out” part next time.
Now that the preamble is over...the old me ate mostly whatever, whenever. Calorie counts were not on my mind at all. I just ate what I felt like. That lifestyle caused me to swell to 280 lbs.

A few times over the years, I tried unsuccessfully to lose weight. I failed for a number of reasons, but mainly because I was not smart about it, and when I did not see results, I gave up. Anyone knows you need to reduce/eliminate junk food, but I ate food that I assumed was healthy, not what I knew was healthy. One example of this; me thinking to myself:  “Hey Jarred on the Subway commercial lost a bunch of weight eating at Subway…guess I will go eat a footlong meatball”. In reality Jarred must have eaten 6-inch subs…and definitely not meatball. One footlong meatball sub at Subway contains 1,120 calories. In comparison, a Big Mac has 560 calories and a BK Whopper has 670 calories ( Some “healthy lunch”!

I also was not honest with myself - one example would be a taco salad. I thought: “hey I am being healthy, eating a salad”. All the while conveniently ignoring the cheese, sour cream, and worst of all, the deep fried tortilla bowl that I almost always scoffed down.

Finally, I had little regard for portion control. Whether the food I was eating was obviously calorie dense or not, I almost always overdid it. 

So what did I do starting in April 2008?

First, the easy stuff, I drastically reduced the amount of obviously unhealthy (unhealthy = high calorie with little nutitional value) food going into my body. I thought of all the blatantly bad foods I would consume over the course of a month and put them into two categories.
  1. Obviously unhealthy foods that I like but do not love. Some examples: candy, pop/soda, fast food burger and fries. These foods were cut out completely.
  2. Obviously unhealthy foods that I love: chicken wings, pizza, and some desserts. I did not cut these out completely, but I did come up with different strategies so I would not be totally deprived. Chicken wings: have 6 occasionally, not 18 every Friday night. Pizza: 1-2 slices, not 4 or more. Also, my pizza started having less processed meat, more veggies. I also make my section of the family pizza without cheese. Desserts: more occasional and smaller portion sizes.

Second, I knew I needed to gain better insight on what was going into my body. On the other hand, I knew that meticulously counting calories would be a pain the butt and something I really did not want to do. Nevertheless, I found a calorie counting website that offered a three week trial and made a commitment to carefully log everything I ate for three whole weeks. The three-week experience was not as bad as I thought, and I gained valuable insight on what a normal day’s food intake should look like. I realized some part of my regular diet had no business being there if I wanted to drop some pounds. I used the info I gathered to formulate a new eating plan of estimating calories rather than strictly counting them.
One weight gain booby trap that thows a wrench into calorie estimating or counting is going out to eat at a restaurant. Some places offer healthy alternatives, but if they don’t or you would like something off the regular portion of the menu, you are blind to the calories damage (and it is usually bad). I was pleasantly surprised on a recent visit to my former home, Vermont, to see that all restaurants are required to print the calories/fat/sodium content prominently for each item on the menu. Hopefully that becomes law here too someday! 

Third, I made a conscious effort to reduce the size of portions at meals. For some reason, I used to have a compulsion to eat everything in front of me, even if I was already satisfied. Not sure why I do this, but I do. Rather than trying to psychoanalyze myself to determine the root cause, I created a simple workaround: PREPARE LESS FOOD! I cannot eat a 12 oz steak if I only cooked a 5 oz one. If am still hungry, there is always something healthy I can eat afterwards.

Fourth, I relied on low calorie, yet filling foods and drink as snacks to not only satisfy my appetite between meals, but also one of the most dangerous times for me – when I wake up in the middle of the night drowsy (bad judgement) and hungry! Yes, I did eat at night. I don't really buy into the notion that you should not eat past a certain time...calories in vs calories out matter, not time of day. That being said, my daily caloric estimate did account for these late night snacks most of the time.
Anyways, some of these “fillers” that I relied on were:
·         Fruit (I particularly recommend grapefruit)
·         Water, water, water
·         Green tea (usually have 8 cups per day)
·         Psyllium fiber added to water or low calorie juice. Usually forms into a blob of goo that you have to down, but it is tasteless and filling.
·         High fiber cereal with no fat milk
·         Unsalted raw almonds (I found dry roasted too tasty and often overdid it)
·         Protein bars (if under 200 calories)
·         Low calorie crackers (recommend Wasa crispbreads) and hummus.
·         Low fat yogurts 

Basically that is it…so to summarize in point form:
  1. Cut out bad foods you can live without, cut down or modify bad foods you really love.
  2. Know the calorie cost of everything going into your body.
  3. Eat smaller portions at meals. If you have difficulty doing this, prepare less food.
  4. Rely on low calorie yet filling foods to satisfy hunger.
Of course changing my diet was only half of the equation. The other, as I previously alluded to, is burning calories…and man, did I ever burn a lot that summer! I will talk about what I did next time. As a teaser, I will say that while I did vary the exercise regiment up a bit, I attribute most of my weight loss that summer to one specific exercise.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Weekly schedule

 This weekend is the 2012 Walt Disney World marathon. It marks one year from when I will be traveling down there to take the Goofy challenge myself. Although I am still 365 days out, from reading about the event on different message boards, I am kind of getting excited already…sad I know. 

Anyways, here is an outline of what my weekly fitness schedule, at least until the weather gets warmer, hopefully mid March, and I can begin serious running training … I hate running outdoors this time of year when it is freezing out. I got Georges St Pierre’s Rushfit for Christmas, so I will be doing a lot of those workouts. I will also being doing a workout routine that I created that I call “Brutal”. Many of the moves in this workout come from P90X, Insanity, and Rushfit DVDs; as well as Men’s Health Sparticus workout. Basically, it mixes cardio with dynamic strength training, circuit style. I will detail this workout in a future blog posting.

Monday: Rushfit (if I have time at lunch), Monday night 60-90 minutes running at UPEI’s indoor track

Tuesday: likely will be rest day. Might do something really light and easy like a wii fit workout

Wednesday: Brutal workout

Thursday: Strength and Endurance class at Studionine fitness. Hour long circuit training at a local gym that includes TRX and bosu. I love this class, it works everything, and the best part about that it you can tell the next day what areas you have been neglecting (because they are friggin sore!) It is also nice to get out and workout with others once and awhile.

Friday: Rushfit

Saturday: Both Rushfit and my Brutal routine

Sunday: Rushfit, and maybe something light like a wii fit workout, time and energy permitting

Also, mixed in throughout the week, time and energy permitting, will be the odd Insanity workout. In addition, I hope to tack on a couple tabata routines at the end of most Rushfit and Insanity workouts (for those that don’t know, tabata is only 4 minutes). I should also note that if the day happens to be unseasonably warm, I would bump whatever I have on my workout schedule for a 10-12K run.

Looking ahead, here are some topics I am thinking about covering in the months ahead:

-    What I did the summer I dropped 50 lbs
-         My personal take on P90X, Insanity, and Rushfit
-         Describe my Brutal workout and tabata routines
-         What I do for nutrition, including vitamins and supplements
-         Balancing workout time with work and family time
-    Maybe some non-fitness/healthy living topics

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Setting goals


I am 37 years old and live in Prince Edward Island, Canada. In March 2008, I tipped the scale at almost 280 lbs. I was severely out of shape (I would be winded walking up a set of stairs), I was not pleased with my appearance, and I was fearful that I was showing a bad example to my kids.

So I made a firm commitment to change. By the end of that summer, I dropped almost 50lbs and lost another 35lbs slowly over the next couple years.The lowest I weighed (well since high school) was 192 lbs, which was summer 2011 when I was running all the time. Holidays, a trip to Disney, and not working out quite as much put me back over the 200lbs mark at 205.

Although I am not overly concerned with my current weight, I have made it a goal of mine to get down to 188lbs. This brings me to the one of the purposes of this blog - to officially and publicly declare my fitness goals for 2012. I am hoping this will make me feel more accountable and ultimately more likely to accomplish my goals.

In the weeks and months ahead, I also plan to use this blog to give tips and colourful anecdotes on going from fat to fit based on my personal experiences. I am no expert, but I certainly know what worked for me.

So without further ado, here are my 2012 fitness goals...

1. Get down to 188lbs - as additional motivation, I have resolved to not drink any that delicious, yet high caloric beverage known as beer until goal is reached- that includes Superbowl Sunday and St. Paddy's day!

2. Do a 100 consecutive push-ups. Last time I tried, I got up to 40

3. Complete my first full marathon in October in 4:15 or less.

4. Complete a half-marathon under 1:48 - date and location TBD. I have two halfs under my belt already - 1:52 is my personal best

5. Build enough endurance to complete the Dopey challenge in January 2013. Dopey challenge is an event during the Disney World Marathon weekend. It basically involves a 5K race on Friday, plus the Goofy challenge, which is a half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full marathon on Sunday. Yikes!