Sunday, November 30, 2008

The problem with eating out

I'm supposed to meet up some friends later this afternoon for an early dinner. We're headed to Islands, an eatery which I've been to once or twice maybe, a long time ago.

Now, I'm lucky I have a few hours to prepare for my trip because I may need that time to figure out something to eat.

Islands is not the restaurant I would choose to if given the choice to eat out. I am not familiar with their menu and from what I remember they serve lots of hamburgers and such. Hamburgers have loads of calories and Islands burgers aren't any different.

I do have something on my side though. helps me out tremendously when going to places like Islands, places I've not been to before. CalorieKing doesn't have every single dish on every single restaurant but for chains like Islands and Denny's and McDonald's and such they do.

Here's the link to the Islands page. Now, for kicks you should go there and see what you can find that would be a sensible dinner. So far, and I've glanced through it a few times, I've only found one dish that is less than 600 calories.

Now, I have basically decided on one thing - the Tortilla soup. This is fairly disappointing, because I don't like to go out and order something that I can make at home. I love this recipe for Tortilla Soup. I don't know what the Islands one will taste like but mine tastes pretty good. And I just made it about five days ago. And I have everything to make it again.

But the thought of ordering a burger with around 2,000 calories in it makes me cringe. And I don't like to cringe.

This unfortunate situation just illustrates how difficult it is for me to out and eat. With children, it's difficult to go out to eat unless it's a place like Denny's, which we used to frequent quite often. But when you get the chance to go out with fellow adults sans kids, it expands your options but at the same time could make it more difficult to find something decent to eat. And really, that takes the fun out of going out. If Thursday hadn't have been Thanksgiving, I might have called today a cheat day but two cheat days in a span of four days? No way.

Hence, the Tortilla soup option. Ugh. I suppose I'll just smile and pretend I'm enjoying the food.

Sunday jog

I could get used to this.

For the second consecutive day, I went on an early-morning jog around my neighborhood. It was just as comforting this morning as it was on Saturday, both physically and mentally. Physically I was able to handle another decent run without too many problems and when I was nearing the end felt like I could have gone on another mile or two.

Mentally, it was relaxing. I know it sounds kind of strange but I enjoy the alone time I get when I run around the neighborhood. Typically alone time for me means I'm sequestered in my office here at home or maybe alone in the truck after dropping off my daughter at preschool. But this alone time is truly alone, just me and my thoughts... and my heaving chest and hard-working muscles and sweat-drenched forehead. It's relaxing though, being alone out there with nothing but my thoughts.

Not all runs are like that. Some runs I'm just dying to finish. But maybe it's being back outside. Perhaps the months of runs on the treadmill at the gym got me used to running in front of a mirror for so long that now any sign of actual life during a run is soothing.

That's probably why I feel so open to running in the open, so comforted by the early-morning sunshine, the sleepy feel of quiet houses in the early hours of the weekend, the lack of cars on the road. No one was working 'round these parts except for me, and the was empowering as it was comfortable.

In the end, I ran for about 40 minutes, got in almost four and a half miles and completed yet another successful run. The picture (not one I shot during my run) is of the final leg of my run, somewhere after the four-mile mark.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Comforting run

I set out to accomplish something this morning and I succeeded. Hopefully it will be the first of many such accomplishments to come.

Yesterday was a waste as far as fitness was concerned. The gym denied me a workout (see previous post) so my fitness plan did not pick up where I had intended it to. But today, I didn't waste my time with the gym. The sun was out but the morning chill had not yet lifted. It was a perfect day to take in a run around the neighborhood, which is exactly what I did.

I took a course that led me up the beginning part of a hill and swung back around the edges of the housing tract where my home is. All in all, it was... well, I haven't checked as of this writing but I'm thinking it was about three miles. It felt great and my body feels great as I write. In fact, I could have kept going and I think I would have been able to run at least another mile, possibly two more, without much problem.

To me, that's a good sign. I had gone about 17 days without running (though I'd biked a few days) before Wednesday's interval run. Thursday I played about an hour's worth of football but it wasn't exactly a grueling workout. So to have the kind of energy I had this morning with relatively little build up time to it was encouraging.

Here are the stats: Time - 30:37; Avg hr - 176; Max hr - 182; Cal - 541.

What's next? Well, if all goes well another similar run on Sunday morning followed with maybe some intervals on Monday morning. Monday afternoon I have my first soccer game (excuse me while I fish out that rock that just fell to my stomach) so I may not run in the morning, but we'll see.

Whatever the case, I really feel as if I am back on track now, and that is very comforting.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Infuriating morning

I skipped my workout today. I had intended to run intervals again, for the second time in three days. But it didn't happen.

It was not my fault, however. Honestly. In fact, I'd been all prepared to work out when my ability to work out was stripped from my hands.

I had called my gym in the morning to see if their day care center was open. The person said yes, so I planned my morning around that. My wife had been home in the morning but I chose instead to take the girls to the gym because they like to spend time in their day care.

When I showed up to the gym, though, I was told otherwise. The gym's day care center was closed. I was upset and walked right back out the door. A trip to the grocery store adjacent to the gym did not soothe my intensifying anger so I went back to the gym to talk to a manager. I was very upset at this point and worried that I would start to yell. I didn't, though. I kept my cool and told him the story and he sympathized with me. He tried to make it up by giving me a free month's worth of their membership, and while that was nice and appreciated it didn't take away from the fact that I missed my workout.

Missing workouts because of your own doing, whether it's because you were negligent or something came up or whatever, is one thing. But when you plan to work out, get up the energy to go to the gym (and truth be told I didn't exactly feel like running four miles but dammit that's what I was going to do) and psyche yourself up to get on the treadmill/elliptical/bike/whatever and then all of the sudden you are told no, you can't, thank you very much... well, that's very upsetting. That's why I was so irritated, because I had that stripped from me.

I went home, stewed a little longer and now I think I've expelled the negative feelings out through my fingers and into this post.

On Saturday I'll have to get up early and go on a run. I will run here outside unless it's raining. If that happens, it'll be back to the gym this time without girls in tow. And if they tell me for the second consecutive day that I can't work out, oh boy, will there be hell to pay.


If you're like me, you are probably still stuffed to your gills with turkey. And stuffing. And ham. And everything else that was likely on your table on Thursday. The thought of piling up more of the same is... well, actually it's appealing. But if you don't feel like eating your fifth plate of turkey/ham/stuffing/etc. in the last two days, then you may want to try one of these leftover options, courtesy of Men's Health.

The Day After Thanksgiving
2 tablespoons cranberry relish
1 whole-wheat tortilla
3 slices turkey
1 slice Muenster cheese
3/4 cup mixed greens

Directions: Spread cranberry relish down center of tortilla. Add turkey and remaining ingredients. Fold outside edges in, then roll.

Nutritional info: Per serving: 311 calories, 24 g protein, 40 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat (6 g saturated), 3 g fiber, 1063 mg sodium

That one sounds pretty tasty. I might try this one soon, even if I don't get to it today. Here's another one that sounds delicious.

The Two Turks
2 slices turkey
1 whole-wheat tortilla
2 slices cooked turkey bacon
3/4 cup mixed greens
3 slices avocado
2 tablespoons shredded reduced-fat Mexican-blend cheese

Directions: Arrange turkey slices down center of tortilla, then add remaining ingredients. Fold outside edges in, then roll.

Per serving: 407 calories, 27 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 24 g fat (6 g saturated), 10 g fiber, 1376 mg sodium

I've been on a wrap kick for a while now, so the first two seemed like a great change of pace. But a fresh salad is always a great option.

Autumn Turkey Salad
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 pound cooked skinless turkey breasts, cut into 1/2-inch (1-cm) cubes
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 apple, cut into 1/2-inch (1-cm) cubes
1/3 cup dried apricots, sliced
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Directions: In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, sour cream, thyme, lemon juice, and lemon peel until smooth. Add the turkey, celery, apple, and apricots. Toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with the walnuts.

Nutritional Info: 343 calories, 23 g carbs, 214 mg sodium, 11 g fat, 38 g protein, 3 g fiber, 97 g carbs.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Plenty to be thankful for

I can compile a list of hundreds of things I'm thankful for quite easily, from big things (my employers, reliable automobiles) to small things (my iPod, my heart rate monitor... okay, maybe those things aren't that little...). Anyway, it's really difficult to narrow things down of course. But I have to take time today, on Thanksgiving, to tell you a couple of the things on that list that I am most thankful for.

- My wife. Of course, I'm thankful for the misses... or is it Mrs.? Anyway, she's always been supportive of my willingness to stay home with our girls and my freelance career. It's what makes me happy, and she wants me to be happy. She also had a huge influence on my weight loss, for she was the one who sought out a personal trainer. She actually started a month before I did and although she lost 30 pounds in four months or so, she was not able to maintain the meal plan and workout regimen. I do hope someday she finds that fire that helped her burn off those pounds but I'll stand by her either way.

- I'm thankful that I found my spark. I went running on Wednesday and it was like meeting up with an old friend. I love to run. I love the challenges that each run presents. I can't imagine fitness not being a part of my life. Before, I hardly ever did any sort of physical activity. Now, if I go three days without a run I start to get grumpy.

- Of course, it goes without saying that I am thankful for my girls. I love them to death and I would do anything for them. Although my wife got me into fitness and my trainer helped me a lot, the girls were the driving force behind my change. They were two years old and five months old respectively when I first began seeing the trainer. Once I got going and bought into the weight change, they became my motivation. I didn't want the girls to have a fat daddy. I knew I was going to be around a lot when they started school and I didn't want the kids in her class to tease them because of their dad. Nor did I want the other parents to wonder which kid this great big guy came to pick up. I wanted them to be proud of their dad, wanted to show them that anything is possible if they make goals and work hard to reach them. I am nothing without them and I can't imagine them not being a part of my life.

I'm putting this clip here because it's one of our favorite home videos. It was in the summer of '07 and the girls are in action, as Yvie is trying to boss Kennedy around. To this day, we joke around about the "Fant Farrah" which we still cannot figure out what it is.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sobering reality

Since finishing the Mission Inn 10K run a few weeks ago, I have not run much. In fact, I have not run at all. I've only managed two workouts since then, two workouts that were both mostly on the bike, and those were about two days apart from each other. So in other words, for the last 17 days, I've done nothing.

And it shows. I ran today - and I'll get to that in a minute - and as I was walking out I decided on a whim to jump on the scale.


Yikes. That is not good. Not good at all. I had been around 182 or so, give or take a pound. I had not yet cracked the 179 mark but I had barely been above 185 for a long time. And now this. Nevermind that this is my post-workout weight, which means I was or am really at about 188.5 if I know my body, which I like to think I do.

Well, this is actually a good thing. It's good because nothing whips me into shape quicker than gaining weight. I worked my ass off for 20 months to lose 125 pounds and the last thing I am ever going to do is allow myself to put any of it back on. A few pounds, whatever, they come and go, but this weight gain has been due to 1) lack of running and 2) lack of calorie control.

I don't know how else to live my life. I set a goal and try to reach it every day. If it's with my meal plan, then it's eating a snack at about 10 am or avoiding sweets. If it's with my workout regimen, then it's running a certain distance or going to the gym for the third time in five days.

Lately I've had no such goals to meet. I've not planned to run a race, well, officially anyway. Nothing is coming up that I need to train for. The soccer officiating is one thing but I don't have to bust my butt to get in shape for that. I'm already there, and I believe that is part of my problem. I've gotten into a comfort zone, and those are dangerous. Can't have them. Don't want them. Mustn't think like that.

So now what I have to do though is to keep cool. I have to keep my cool because I don't want to make any rash decisions. It's Thanksgiving tomorrow and I want to enjoy it and enjoy the food. I don't want to deny myself on the one day of the year that it's okay, necessary even, to indulge. But beyond that, I have to make a plan. Got to. No choice. Soccer or not, I have to start running again, in the gym, as if I have a race to train for. That's the only way I can function apparently.

As far as my run, it went well. I felt comfortable, so comfortable on the treadmill. The bike is nice but I'm a runner dammit, a Muddy Runner. I need to run. I have to run. It's what I've become.

I ran intervals, my usual 42-minute interval, alternated between 6.0 and 7.3. The vitals - time: 33:02, Avg HR: 169, Max HR: 191, Cal: 547. Those numbers are a bit higher than I'm used to seeing during interval runs, and I'll prove it to you next week after I've gotten back into the groove of running.

So I'm going to take these next couple of days to hammer out a plan. I will run on Friday for sure, probably another interval run on Friday. I'll try and get a good run in on Saturday, maybe four to five miles. Rest on Sunday and then... don't know yet. I'll figure out a plan soon enough.

And it will be an effective plan, I'm sure of it.

Re-living the glory

Okay, well maybe it wasn't too glorious but I did go through an exciting time in my life earlier this year. In June, I ran my first 5K race, which actually was the first race I'd ever ran in my life. I've run three races this year now and each one has been exciting but the Fontana Days 5K was particularly memorable for being the first-ever race.

I didn't want to have the Mud Run as my first race. I figured I'd have enough challenges to overcome during that race, and I didn't want first-race jitters to be part of that. Plus 5K races are fun as I would find out that day.

Anyway, when I originally wrote my 5K recap I had a readership of one. Now that I have a few more readers I thought it would be good to share this story. And mostly I wanted to share it in support of a friend and fellow blogger who will be running in a 5K on Thanksgiving. Knowing how much I put into running a race and knowing the kinds of runs she's done, I know it's both an exciting and anxious time for her. You've prepared well, you've set a goal and now you want to do everything you can in order to reach the goal.

I didn't reach mine, sadly. I was just a bit short. But it's fine because it only makes me want to participate in another 5K so I can beat my time, set a new mark and further challenge myself.

With that, here's a link to my 5K recap.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

All for nothing

If you haven't read up on my next fitness adventure, I'd suggest skipping this post and reading that one first. It will make a little more sense.

Having said that, today made no sense whatsoever.

I had worked myself up all weekend. Even though I had a busy weekend, I still found time to fret about officiating. I was worried and anxious and nervous, and that was all with plenty of time left before the big day.

Today, the big day, I had nowhere to hide. It was time to do it, time to go hit the soccer field and delve into this three-month roller coaster that was certain to follow me. Although today was supposed to have been a junior varsity girls scrimmage I was prepared for the worst. As I walked to the soccer field and watched the team train, I studied the field and thought that the place would not seem as calm in 30 minutes as it did right then and there.

"Oh, the game as rescheduled."

What? You've got to be kidding.

"No, the athletic directors agreed a couple of months ago that they wanted to play the game on Monday."

Great. I had gotten myself all worked up, all prepared to take this first giant step forward, for this? For a JV girls coach to tell me that it was all for nothing? Apparently. That's how my life goes sometimes, curve ball after curve ball.

So now my first game will be in live action, a varsity girls soccer game. No time to warm up. No time to fine-tune anything. It'll be straight into the lion's den for me. Fast-paced action will greet me. I just need to make sure that the only person who knows that will be my first game is the other official. Because I really do want to enjoy this.

Hopefully, today's setback will be the most glaring setback I'll face anytime soon.

My next fitness adventure

It's not strictly for fitness purposes but I will undertake a new activity that could potentially require lots of running. I'm actually quite nervous about it - but not the fitness part. That will actually be the least of my worries.

I'm going to start work as a high school soccer referee.

Yeah, I don't know what I'm thinking either. I don't necessarily like abuse but that's what I'm asking for. I'm asking for people to abuse me and yell at me and call me names and question my sight and decision-making abilities. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

But I know a thing or two about soccer and have been around the game at the professional and international level for 10 years now. That doesn't necessarily translate into having skills to officiate a soccer game but I've watched World Cup games in person, have watched dozens upon dozens of professional games in person and countless many others on television over the years so I think I know the rules of the game.

It will be a change of pace, though, from sitting in a press box and watching games to being on the field and looking out for fouls. It's a big enough change of pace to make me nervous. I guess my big thing is that I don't want to blow calls. I don't want to mess up and call something that shouldn't be called or miss something blatant, like a hand ball inside the area or something. But I'm starting slowly - my first scrimmage is today and most of the games I have on my schedule thus far as junior varsity girls games, which I heard is as slow as it gets in high school soccer. So I will have time to adjust. Not a lot of time, but time nonetheless.

My in-laws have been reffing for years, and my brothers-in-law have all assured me that I know far more about soccer than any of them and they do just fine. I'll believe it when I see it I suppose.

As far as the fitness goes, it's hard to say just how much I will be running. I really want to get a pedometer to track my mileage but I don't know if I can afford that. Still, I think it could be loads of running. Professional soccer players, in my opinion, are the fittest athletes around. I mean, there is no such thing as an overweight professional soccer player, with the only possible exception being a goalkeeper. So there is a lot of running involved for soccer players, and a lot of running involved for soccer referees. I don't recall seeing any overweight soccer referees either.

Now, the pace of the game at the high school level is far less than an international game per se but that doesn't mean there won't be much running involved. It will be interesting to see how I handle the constant stop-and-go-and-stop-and-run-really-fast pace of soccer. It's just another activity I can do now that I've slimmed down and that part I'm looking forward to.

Yells of "You suck, ref!" ... not so much.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Motivational Mondays, part 2

Music is another great motivator. One of my favorite bands to run to is The Killers. Sometimes the really hard stuff is just too hard and I can't really run to light music.

Anyway, here's one of my favorite songs of the moment. I need to get this CD. Once I do, I'll run to it and let you know how it went.

Motivational Monday (Nov. 24)

In trying to figure out how to organize my blog better, I've decided to set aside space every Monday for some motivation, so this is the first Motivational Monday blog post.

Why Monday? For starters, it's the only day that starts with the same letter as "motivation." And, well, aside from that grammatical factoid, it's the start of the week, back to the grind for most, the furthest away from next weekend as possible. Sometimes, it's hard to get motivated to get out of bed on Monday mornings, let alone think about your fitness plan for the day or week and nutritional plans/goals in general.

So today, being the first day of this week, we'll try to get motivated to stay healthy and exercise! Easier said than done...

Well, that's the point of this blog. It is said easily but that doesn't mean it can't be done easily, or without as much effort as you would think.

This week may seem easy to get motivated. After all, one of my personal favorite holidays of the year is three days away. I adore Thanksgiving and spending time with family, getting re-acquainted with the bird and stuffing and ham... oh, and sweet potatoes, and biscuits, and all the other assorted goodies you can find on most any dinner tables across this great land of ours.

However, it may also seem a bit difficult to get motivated. After all, the abundance of food mentioned above may torpedo any reasonable nutritional goals you have set for yourself. I mean, who can eat just one plate of food on Thanksgiving? That day comes just once a year, and even if you make turkey dinners for Christmas or any other special holiday or special day during the year, it's Thanksgiving and turkey on Thanksgiving is unique.

So here's one way to get motivated: It's okay to eat a lot this Thursday. Load up on turkey and ham (I'll pass on the mashed potatoes). Take an extra biscuit. Pile on the cranberries. Make room for the sweet potatoes. Enjoy yourself and the company of others.

What does that mean for the first part of the week? You'll just have to be on your best behavior. I liken it to the last part of the last mile I'm running. I just have to maintain my pace and it will all be over soon. You just have to be true to yourself and true to your meal plan for three days and then you can relax for a day. If you want to pick at snack food on Tuesday you know you shouldn't be picking on, stow it and remind yourself that you won't have to stow anything on Turkey Day.

It's good to have cheat days. Necessary even. If you are always strict and never allow yourself to indulge, you will make bad choices. That's not a supposition - that's a guarantee. It's like trying to hold your breath for longer than you can or should; at some point, you will just start to gasp for air.

So make today, tomorrow and Wednesday good days, positive days for both your fitness and nutritional needs and Thursday we'll all have loaded helpings of turkey, stuffing, ham, sweet potatoes, etc. Two helpings even. Three or four or... well, let's not push our luck!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ship has sailed

For the past three nights, I've been covering volleyball at a local college. Being on a college campus inevitably brings back memories of my own college days, which really weren't anything wild, memorable or anything. I was a pretty tame college boy, I suppose.

But I walked past something that made me feel some pangs of regret... and no it wasn't the groups of young ladies I saw.

Right next to the parking lot I settled in was a gigantic fitness center. It had windows everywhere and you could see from one end of the gym to the other. There were rows and rows of elliptical machines, treadmills, you name it. I didn't see any free weights and I wondered if they were somewhere on the upper level.

Now, fitness was something I was most definitely not interested in when I was in college. I wasn't big then, a little overweight but certainly not to the levels I would reach later on. I was active somewhat and used to play basketball every now and then but running for distance was something I had absolutely no desire in doing.

When I walked past the gym, past the handful of people taking advantage of the treadmills and such, I couldn't help but shake my head. I wasted my life for so many years, wasted valuable years that could have been spent getting fit and staying fit, looking better, feeling better and laying the foundation for a life of fitness and health.

Instead, I did nothing of the sort. I ate whatever, didn't worry about fitness, figured I was healthy enough, the usual early-twentysomething stuff.

I thought about my life then and how it had evolved, where it had taken me in terms of my health and appearance and how drastically different things are now. I don't just mean professionally or with my family - I'm a family man now and I've come a long way in my professional life as well.

But in terms of health, fitness, cooking, everything of that sort has undergone a major face lift. Where I didn't have the desire to go to the gym and run when I was in college or even three years ago, now I long for the time I have to run. I didn't care about nutritional facts and my food choices reflected that. Now, I ponder the amount of calories in each bite of food I take - it's always in the forefront of my mind.

But despite all these sorts of negative thoughts I had, I kept my composure. It would have been easy to let those negative feelings linger, let myself feel bad about the type of person I was. In fact, just a few years ago I probably would have let my guard down. But now, I'm different. I am strong mentally; I forced myself to be that way. When you have a bad workout, you have to have the ability to bounce back. When you fall short of a goal, whether it's to run a race in a certain time, to stay under a set amount of calories for a day or simply just to go work out, you have to be resilient. Setbacks are important, really. You need them to help you maintain your focus and keep you honest.

So when I walked past the gym, when the first thoughts to arise were "Man, you could have been there, you could have been kicking ass on the 'mill back in the day," I squelched them immediately. Okay, well, maybe not immediately but I certainly didn't allow them to linger too much.

All my bad habits are in the past, and I don't live in the past. I live in the here. I live in the now. I look at what's ahead of me, try to forge a new path. Sure, my old self was an embarrassment in many ways but there is nothing I can do about that now. None of those thoughts of regret linger anymore... well, maybe one. Maybe I could have been more social with the ladies. But I guess that's neither here nor there.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How sweet it is

From time to time, I'll be looking at a specific fruit or vegetable that should be, if not a staple, a key component of my meal plan. This way, I'll share some nutritional values of said fruit/veggie, some links to some healthy recipes and provide plenty of reasons to go out and buy pounds and pounds of said product on your next grocery store visit.

The first profile will be of the sweet potato.

Now, like cooking in general, I didn't realize how much I liked the sweet potato until recently. I've always shown favor towards sweet potatoes but never really considered them an option outside of Thanksgiving. Recently, though, I've been trying to incorporate more vegetables into our meals and I thought of the sweet potato.

Wise choice. Sweet potatoes are loaded with all sorts of good stuff. Some of the more vital stats:

- One cup of cooked sweet potatoes has 50 mg of beta carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A. That's five times the amount you are supposed to take a day.
- One cup also has 6.6 grams of fiber, or one-fourth of what you are supposed to eat a game.
- Sweet potatoes also have loads of potassium - one cup has 950 mg of potassium, about one-fifth the amount you need a day.
- This is probably my favorite stat: one medium sized sweet potato has between 100-120 calories.
- Best of all (not a stat): they really are quite sweet and tasty.

You can find a list of recipes here at All Recipes as well as here at the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, who also provided the valuable stats.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pop THAT in your mouth

Even though I've lost a lot of weight and believe myself to be disciplined when it comes to food, I still get cravings. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen - whether it's cooking or taking refuge from my daughters - and the temptation to pick at food is sometimes great.

Many times I can ignore it. I am disciplined enough to do that. But I'm only human and temptation tries to get the best of me sometimes.

Of course, it's not carrots or celery that scream for my attention. It's the Doritos or Mission Tortilla Chips or, the worst, sweets. They clamor for me and I can't resist. So I've found one way to help me win the Battle of the Cravings.


Wrigley's Big Red, to be precise.

I like gum just as much as the next person I suppose. I've never been a big gum chewer, although I suppose before losing all my weight any time I put gum in my mouth I was a big gum chewer... Anyway, to help me from slowly putting the weight back on and keep the cravings at bay, I'll pop in a stick or three of gum in my mouth.

It's hard to enjoy Doritos when you have gum in your mouth, and cheese doesn't taste the same either. Candy? Forget it. Gum wins out.

But I have to be careful with that too. I can't pop some Hubba Bubba in my mouth because that has quite a bit of calories. Sticks of gum have calories too. Each of the Big Red has 10 calories so if I put six or seven in my mouth, that sort of defeats the purpose. But usually one or two or three is enough to squash out the cravings and when the moment passes - usually long after the flavor has subsided - the chips have quieted down too.

Now I don't always have gum handy. So what do I do if the chips are clamoring and I have no gum around? Well, that's when I get the hell out of Dodge.

Saltiest foods, part 2

Alright, earlier I'd written about the saltiest foods in America, according to Men's Health magazine. The list was pretty shocking as it finished off with two dishes of more than 4,000 mg sodium apiece, and that list was only from 20-11.

So here's the last part of the list. If you are a fan of Romano's Macaroni Grill and want to live in ignorant bliss, feel free to skip this part. After all, they take up three of the top 10 spots.

10. Saltiest Bread - Dunkin' Donuts Salt Bagel: 4,520 mg sodium, 320 calories
9. Saltiest Sandwich - Quiznos Turkey Bacon Guacamole Large Sub with Cheese and Reduced-fat Ranch Dressing: 4,670 mg sodium, 1,120 calories
8. Saltiest Pizza - Pizza Hut Meat Lover's Stuffed Crust Pizza (3 slices of the 14" large): 5,070 mg sodium1,560 calories
7. Saltiest Comfort Food - Denny's Meatloaf Dinner (w/mashed potatoes and corn): 5,080 mg sodium, 1,210 calories
6. Saltiest Salad - Romano's Macaroni Grill: 5,460 mg sodium, 840 calories
5. Saltiest Mexican Entree - Chili's Buffalo Chicken Fajitas: 5,690 mg sodium, 1,730 calories
4. Saltiest Kids' Entree - Cosi Kid's Pepperoni Pizza: 6,405 mg sodium, 1,901 calories
3. Saltiest Seafood Entree - Romano's Macaroni Grill Grilled Teriyaki Salmon: 6,590 mg sodium, 1,230 calories
2. Saltiest Appetizer - Papa John's Cheesesticks w/Buffalo Sauce: 6,700 mg sodium, 2,605 calories
1. Saltiest Dish in America - Romano's Macaroni Grill Chicken Portabello: 7,300 mg sodium, 1,020 calories

Well, there you go. The top 10 saltiest foods in America. It's actually pretty scary that so many dishes have more than double the amount of sodium you should consume in one day.

The calories for some of the dishes aren't that high but caloric value alone shouldn't determine the overall nutritional value of a dish. For instance, the salad at number six is a fair amount of calories - about half or so of what I try and eat per day. But even if I rearranged the rest of my meals that day in order to accommodate that, there is no amount of accommodation you could make to be able to consume more than 5,000 mg sodium per day.

If nothing else, be forewarned that salty dishes are plentiful in restaurants across the land. Particularly at Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mud crawl: the video

Now, I'm not in the video that I've linked below. I didn't have any supporters with cameras in hand at last month's Camp Pendleton Mud Run, let alone near the mud crawl. But I went through this very spot and did this very thing about a month ago now.

It was near the end of the Mud Run, one of the final challenges before crossing the finish line. It wasn't physically demanding per se, at least not like Slipper Hill or the first two or three miles of running, pretty much all uphill.

But the mud crawl was nevertheless challenging. I remember approaching it pretty much close to being out of steam. I forced my arms into action and dragged myself across this. I remember thinking that I was going super slow but not caring too much because I was moving as fast as I could, or as fast as my body let me anyway.

I managed to get in the way of a photographer's camera and had a couple of good pictures taken of me. But I hadn't tried to look for video of the Mud Run until recently and this was one of the better clips on there, even though it's short.

So check it out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saltiest Foods, part 1

Be forewarned: if you frequent PF Chang's, Chili's or Hardee's, you may not want to read any further. Or you might be enticed to read on.

I ran across a Men's Health magazine from this spring which featured a list of the 20 most saltiest foods in America. They feature things like "saltiest side dish" and "saltiest" Chinese entree."

Now, before I get to numbers 20-11 on the list, a bit about sodium: you are supposed to consume 2,300 mg of sodium per day. How much is that? Exactly one teaspoon, which isn't a lot. But, according to the magazine, the average American eats 3,300 mg of sodium per day.

20. Saltiest Side Dish - Denny's Honey Sliced Ham, grilled slice: 1,700 mg sodium, 85 calories
19. Saltiest Dessert - Atlanta Bread Company Raspberry Scone: 1,750 mg sodium, 360 calories
18. Saltiest Soup - Baja Fresh Chicken Tortilla Soup: 2,760 mg sodium, 320 calories
17. Saltiest Burger - Hardee's 2/3 lb Monster Thickburger: 2,770 mg sodium, 1,420 calories
16. Saltiest "Healthy" Food - Chili's Guiltless Grill Chicken Platter: 2,780 mg sodium, 590 calories
15. Saltiest Pasta - Fazoli's Rigatoni Romano: 3,180 mg sodium, 1,090 calories
14. Saltiest Chinese Food - PF Chang's Beef with Broccoli: 3,752 mg sodium, 1,120 calories
13. Saltiest Breakfast - Arby's Sausage Gravy: 3,754 mg sodium, 961 calories
12. Saltiest Beef Entree - Bob Evans Steak Tips and Noodles: 4,131 mg sodium, 822 calories
11. Saltiest Frozen Dinner - Swanson Hungryman XXL Roasted Carved Turkey: 4,480 mg sodium, 1,360 calories

There you go. The first half of the list. And if the first half ends with two dishes of over 4,000 mg sodium and five with more than 3,000, you can only imagine the horrors that await from spots 10 through 1.

The one that surprises me the most is Chili's. Now, I don't get out to restaurants much any more but I've been to Chili's a few times over the last three years and I've ordered off their guiltless grill menu as all dishes have or are supposed to have less than 600 calories. And while their Guiltless Grill Chicken Platter does have less than those many calories, the trade-off is consuming more than your recommended daily sodium intake. I don't think that's necessarily a fair trade.

Check back later this week for spots 10 through 1... unless you like Romano's Macaroni Grill.

Start slowly

While at the gym on Tuesday, I contemplated the treadmill. Actually, it wasn't much contemplating as it was wondering. I wondered when I'd get on it again, and if getting on it sooner would be better than later.

Of course, that was before my great workout. Now, I feel comfortable staying on the bike.

But there will come a time when I have to run again, and when I do will I be prepared?

I came across this article on that talks about getting back into running shape after a prolonged layoff. It doesn't go into detail about how many days constitutes a prolonged layoff, but after having run for so long, 10 days to me seems rather prolonged.

The story suggests to start with some light running to begin with. So a two-minute run followed by a two-minute walk would suffice. Then, add minutes to each run and pretty soon you'll be, well, off and running.

This was actually a bit of my plan. I had planned to run intervals the next time I hit the treadmill. The only problem was my first interval segment was a full 12 minutes of running and asking my body to do that seems like it would be a jolt to the system. I suppose biking hard for a few days or weeks would help alleviate whatever stress may be caused by such a run, but mentally it could still be a struggle.

I plan on resting on Wednesday before hitting the gym again on Thursday and possibly Friday. Both days probably will mirror today, with a bike segment followed by some time on the elliptical. Running will subside, for now.

Actually, until next week. I'll shortly begin a new type of running workout, one that will involve more than a treadmill. What is it? Well, I'll save the topic for another post since I'll need some time and energy to get me through it - the post as well as the endeavor.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What a difference .01 makes

On Monday, I returned to the gym and biked for 45 minutes. I did 16.20 miles and it was overall an average workout. Today, I got on the same bike, set the timer for the same 45 minutes and in the end wound up with a distance of 16.21.

But today's workout was infinitesimally better. Night and day. Apples and oranges. Water and oil... well, you get the point.

Not only did I feel exhausted after I was done, I felt like I'd just completed a challenging workout. Yesterday, I felt like I'd spun the wheels on the bike for 45 minutes.

I had a better mindframe, better mentality today. I focused before getting on the bike and was ready to face whatever challenges I had. For the first 10 minutes or so it was about the same but I made it a goal to push my heart rate as high as I possibly could. On the bike, though, I'm limited. My thighs can only handle so much before they start to burn and threaten to tear off my pelvis so I can only really push myself for a few minutes at a time.

But for those few minutes it made a world of difference. I started to challenge myself in two- or three-minute increments. I rose the bike's level from a seven or eight up to a 10, which for me is challenging. Hopefully if I get a bike and start to exercise using a bike I'll be able to handle more and ride longer distances at a higher level.

Anyway, that worked. My heart rate climbed immediately once I put on the higher pressure. It went from the high 130s into the 140s and eventually into the 150s. When my thighs started to shout, I slowed down. I did this multiple times during the bike ride and once my 45 minutes were up, I was exhausted.

Well, a little bit. I was tired of sitting so I jumped on the elliptical for about 15 minutes to round out the workout.

Here are the heart rate stats
(bike) time: 45:00, Avg hr 140, Max hr 164, Cal 532
(elliptical) time: 15:14, Avg hr 150, Max hr 160, Cal 201

I was able to maintain a higher average on the elliptical because of my bike workout. I think I may be able to adjust the times on both the bike and elliptical to have a more well-rounded workout.

More importantly, there's hope. I can start to challenge myself on these machines that I felt were not challenging enough as I take a break from distance running. And that alone makes the extra .01 worth every bit of energy I expelled to attain it.

Eat Often!

This is the third of four installments of the Men's Health Abs Diet. Now, to catch you up, the diet is intended for helping build your abs but in general I believe it to be an excellent guide of what types of foods to eat and what types of foods to avoid. The Eat Rarely! section was full of foods that are loaded with calories that, even though they are quite tasty, can destroy any sensible meal plan. The Eat Occasionally! section had some foods that were unhealthy if eaten in regularly.

Now is the Eat Often! section, foods that if you eat every day you won't be doing a bad thing.

Eat Often: apples, asparagus, avocados, bananas, brown rice, Canadian bacon, canola oil, citrus fruits and juice, corn, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts), edamame, eggplant.

Easily my favorite and preferred snack at any time of the year is an apple. When I'm hungry, there is no more refreshing fruit or vegetable or whatever that I can put in my mouth than an apple. And they are quite healthy, as an average apple has around 70 calories and more than three grams of fiber. An apple as an a.m. snack and one for p.m. snack might seem mundane but it's really not. That's almost seven grams of fiber right there, about a fourth of what you need per day, and it tastes very good. Avocados, while I don't like them, are also beneficial as they have beneficial monounsaturated fats and are loaded with potassium, folate and fiber: one cup of sliced avocados has 234 calories, 9.8 grams of fiber and only 10mg of sodium. Can't beat that.

Eat Often (cont): flaxseed, fruit (dried), fruit juices (no sugar added), game (lean meats like ostrich), garlic, lentils, melons, mushrooms, nut butters (such as almond and cashew), onions.

You don't need to convince me to add garlic and onions to my meals. I can't imagine not having them as part of my diet. I eat them daily. Nut butters give you an infusion of protein along with flavor and can be a good alternative to canola and olive oils... not that there's anything wrong with those two but a change of pace can be nice.

Eat Often (cont): pasta (whole wheat w/tomato sauce and vegetables), peaches, peanut oil, peas, peppers, pita (whole wheat), popcorn (fat free), potatoes (baked, sweet or white), prunes, pumpkin seeds.

I've been on a pepper kick lately. I love to throw them on my sandwiches or in with some chorizo or whatever sort of meat dish I'm making. They make most any dish taste better and have lots of carbs, fiber and protein.

Eat Often (cont): ricotta cheese (part skim), salsa, sesame oil, shellfish and bivalves (steamed or baked), soup (broth-based), sunflower seeds, tea, tofu, tomatoes, vegetable juice, wine (1-2 glasses a day).

The last part of this list features tomatoes, which I like but can't get to quickly enough, and salsa, also something I enjoy. I'm going to try and use more salsa in my dishes soon, sort of how I've incorporated the peppers. Salsa, according to my diet cheat sheet, is the ultimate condiment as it has lots of nutrients and not a lot of calories.

Well, there is the list. I'd say the items on here that I don't eat enough of are the different kinds of oils (I'd really like to get some nut and sesame oils), baked sweet potatoes (I love sweet potatoes and don't know why I don't eat them more often), asparagus and broccoli. I may have to try and gradually add them to my diet to maximize the good things these foods have to offer.

Abs diet or no, it just makes sense.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back to the grind

Properly motivated, well rested and with loads of energy, I made it out to the gym on Monday. And it was a good workout as I rode for 45 minutes and even got in a brief bit of weigh training.

So I was happy with how the day went then, right?

Sort of.

I hadn't intended to run or work out pretty hard. In fact, I'd intended for an easy workout, something that would help get me back into the rhythm of working out, both mentally and physically. It had been a week since I last did any sort of physical activity, when I ran the Mission Inn Run 10K.

Did Monday's workout meet my goals? Yes, but those goals weren't ones that I would normally hold for myself. I suppose then that's why I feel satisfied that I worked out but not exactly feeling great over a killer workout.

Perhaps the problem is in my expectations and not so much the workout itself. Every time I go to the gym, I try and challenge myself and while Monday's workout was a challenge in and of itself, it wasn't of the usual I'm-going-to-push-my-body-to-the-limits kind. I wanted to ride the bike for 45 minutes, I did and that's that.

Here are some stats to prove how merely satisfying my workout was:

Time 45:00; Avg Hr 135; Max Hr 160; Cal 525

Compare that to my Mission Inn Run

Time: 52:30; Avg Hr 182; Max Hr 192; Cal 989

Okay, maybe that comparison is a bit unfair. After all, running a 10K is supposed to be challenging, far more challenging than the typical gym workout. But still, when I run my heart rate is typically more than 160 and sometimes is in the 170 range. So when I work out and I only get as high as 160, it's natural to feel it as a bit of a letdown.

Again, it's all about expectations. I expected myself to have a recovery-type of workout and I did, so I need to feel satisfied. My normal expectations are quite higher so I just have to adjust them sometimes to meet my specific demands.

Because I can't run a 10K every day.

All forms of motivation

Motivation comes in different forms. Sometimes, it's a matter of forcing yourself to get on the machine or out to the track. Other times, a bad day spurns you to run faster, harder and reach that extra mile or minute you didn't think was possible.

But no matter if it's a weight-driven goal or a race you must prepare for, the key to any good workout is to be motivated. If you have motivation, you will do well. I've lived through this and have experienced the highs and lows of motivation since starting my health renaissance two years ago.

Motivation changed and evolved, from losing weight to changing my appearance completely to maintaining to training for races. But motivation also changed from workout to workout. You need to have goals, sure, but you also need to have something to drive you to the end of the workout, something that when you are in mile 2 of a 5-mile run will help you push through and continue on until the end.

I actually have something I say to myself before I work out, something that helps me focus. But something else that helps me focus is, well, myself. Pictures of myself to be more precise. I like my after picture and dread my before shot.

During a family trip to Mexico in 2006, after I'd already lost about 40 pounds.

Over this summer, down to where I am today, around 180.

Maybe it's because I'm starting a new phase in my fitness and workout routines but I need a little bit of motivation to get myself into the right mentality to start off the week. I think once I get to the gym I'll be okay, but I want to ensure that happens.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rest, again

Day six of my no-workout week has gone like most of the rest of the week, with me longing to workout. But the dry spell will be over soon as I will pay the gym a visit on Monday. And I suppose if I go I should have a plan.

My tentative plan is to spend time on the bike. I will get to know the intimate details of the bike here in the coming weeks. I've not done bike exclusively for cardio purposes since the early days of my fitness renaissance. But lately I have been using it as a way to supplement my workouts.

My plan is to visit the gym at least twice, preferably three times this week. Since I haven't done anything this week I suspect Monday's session will consist of me pedaling easily in an attempt to get my body back in the workout mode.

Part of the reason I didn't want to stop working out altogether was my fear of regression. I worried that I would start from scratch essentially. But I suppose the bike is good in that sense. It is not as physically demanding as running and will give me a mental break from the rigors of running. Also I think I will be able to ease into the routine in a less challenging manner.

I just have to make it to Monday, make it to the start line. But I am oh so close.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No bounce in my step

So now I'm going on five days with no physical activity, unless you count a half-mile walk on Wednesday which I'm not.

Resting after a race is important as I've been told about and read up on proper recovery. The advice varies from resting one day per every mile you run during a race (thus a marathon would require a month off) to 4-6 days for every hour of running. I just decided to shut it down this week in general and will pick up slowly on Monday.

But this time away from the gym has been, well, idle. I've done nothing and I'm anxious to get back to the gym when the time is right. Now, though, I feel like I'm idling and not really contributing much. Working out gives me so much energy and I notice the lack of a bounce in my step when I don't work out. I've been battling fatigue these last couple of days as not working out is taking a toll.

Usually if I don't work out for three days I feel it and this week has been no exception. However, I'm hoping it will pay off with a strong week and a positive start to my next round of workouts.

Faux health

When trying to get healthy and eat better, ditching cheeseburgers and ding-dongs for salads and turkey burgers sounds like a path to better health.

But it's not.

Several foods that might seem healthy are in fact gut bombs in disguise.

Here's a list of food that according to Men's Health is really unhealthy health food. It's in reverse order, from 14 to one.

Margarine, fish sandwich, dried fruit, pasta primavera, bagel w/cream cheese, yogurt w/fruit on bottom, pasta salad, granola bar, fruit smoothies, turkey burger, chicken wrap, tuna melt, chicken caesar salad, bran muffin.

Probably the most surprising things on there would seem to be the turkey burgers, the fruit smoothies or the respective salads. Nowadays, it seems anything turkey is a better alternative: turkey hot dogs, ground turkey, turkey you-name-it. Although it may indeed have fewer calories than their beef counterparts, the difference is not as great as you'd think. According to, one ground turkey patty(2.9 ounces) has 193 calories while an ounce of pan-friend, 70 percent lean ground beef has 77 calories per ounce.

Of the top 14 I sruggle with muffins the most. Although I don't make bran muffins, I do make muffins every Saturday. Still, thanks to this I won't be in a hurry to make bran muffins.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mission Inn pics

When I ran my first race, the Fontana Days 5K back in June, I didn't realize that photographers manned the course snapping countless photos of the race participants. Consequently I wasn't smart enough to make sure that I got into the path of said photographers on the course in order to ensure that I'd have a memento from the race aside from a t-shirt and bib.

So I was pretty disappointed when all I got was a half picture in which I was not the intended target.

During the Mud Run, I was smart enough to scope out the photographers and I had plenty of pictures taken of me.

Now, the Mission Inn Run provides a pair of photos that I may purchase or, at the very worst, put on my Christmas wish list. At least one picture, anyway.

Not sure when exactly this was taken but it looks like it's early on. I checked the bib number of the guy behind me and he finished about four minutes ahead of me, so it has to be during the first two miles. I don't look like I'm enjoying myself very much.

I was pretty much hating life right here. I remember this part clearly. It was close to the finish, probably had about half-mile to go. I came up a hill and my heart rate jumped from 184 or so to 191 in a matter of 10 steps. I was in slow-down-or-your-heart-will-burst mode right here. I also remember seeing the photographer and thinking to myself "Don't look at her. Look straight ahead and hope you get a cool pose." Well, I didn't look at her and did look straight ahead, but I'm not sure this qualifies as "cool." Still, it may be worth the nine bucks or whatever they're charging for a print.

I think if I had to choose one shot it would be the second one simply because there aren't people behind me, people who would end up smoking me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eat Occasionally!

Last week I wrote about a list of foods that, according to the Men's Health Abs Diet, you should rarely eat. Today, I'm writing about their list of foods you should eat on occasion. Now, this list doesn't exactly break down how many times you should eat something on this list but I'm guessing if you had a couple of servings a week that would be okay. While it might be more restrictive than that, I tend to be a bit more lenient on certain things.

Anyway, here's the list:

Eat Occasionally: applesauce, baked beans, baked fries (sweet potato), beef jerky (lean), beer (light), chocolate (dark or milk), chocolate milk, coffee (unsweetened), coleslaw, crackers (whole wheat), cream cheese (low-fat).

I usually make my own applesauce because I like to cook and to me it seems healthier than the store-bought on. Perhaps I could get away with eating more if I make it myself. I'm a coffee fiend so that would be difficult to eat occasionally. However, when I work out I don't drink coffee in the mornings so that sort of helps. With coleslaw, I don't eat it regularly, in fact never have, but I've made it several times recently. I make my own and have had success when I've made it and it doesn't seem unhealthy.

Eat Occasionally (cont): egg salad, dips (low-fat), graham crackers, granola bars, granola (low-fat), guacamole, ham, honey, ice cream (low fat), jam, jell-o (sugar free).

I stopped buying granola bars because of this list. I used to buy a big box of them at Costco but I was going through them quickly and when I saw that I should be eating them occasionally I knew that was not possible. So I just cut them off and instead try and snack on apples or bananas or whatever fruit I have handy. However, I've made some granola bars from scratch and they are highly addictive. Those were supposed to be snacks for my daughters but I have problems staying away from them!

Eat Occasionally (cont): lamb, lasagna, lunchmeat, macaroni, margarine, mayo (reduced-fat), meatball subs, muffins (bran), pasta (white flour w/tomato sauce), pork tenderloin, pretzels, protein bars, pudding (w/low fat milk).

I can't survive without lunchmeat. I eat lots and lots of sandwiches and wraps for lunch and I rely on the lunchmeat. I suppose an alternative would be to cook up some chicken early in the week and use it throughout the week as needed for sandwiches and wraps. I usually have protein bars for breakfast so that would be quite difficult for me to eat occasionally.

Eat Occasionally (cont): rice (white), sauerkraut, soft drinks (diet), sorbet/sherbet, sushi, tuna salad, trail mix, veal, waffles (whole grain), yogurt (frozen).

When we have white rice, I use it maybe once or twice a week so we're set there. I try not to drink too many diet sodas when we have them and try to stick to water but sometimes I'll grab one. If we have trail mix, I usually have problems staying away from it so I don't get it that often.

Anyway, there's the list. I'll check in with the good parts of the list in the coming days.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The itch

I've sworn off running for the rest of the year. Okay, not quite, but I'm definitely not going to train for another race this year. But I suppose it's ingrained in me. I'm already thinking about running a 5k in January. I've really got to find another hobby I guess.

Anyway, in case I do want to start training for a 5K, I decided to see what sort of training schedule would await me. It looks both challenging and exciting and actually had the opposite effect that I'd hoped for. I wanted to have something so difficult that I wouldn't want to go near a race for much longer than a few months.

I put in some relevant data into a race/training calculator on Runner's World's web site and this is what it spit out:

To train for a 5K in six weeks, I'd have to run three times a week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays would suffice. Each Monday would consist of an easy two-mile run... not that the run would be easy but that I should run it at an easy pace. The Wednesday workout would be a combination of speedwork and tempo runs - I'd have to run, say, 3 miles at a pace of 8:38 with a warm-up/cool-down mile on either side.

The Saturday runs would be the most difficult part of this training regimen. I'd run six miles on the first two Saturdays, seven miles on the following two Saturdays and eight miles on the Saturday before the race. That's quite a bit of mileage!

Still, none of this is daunting. Now, I've never ran 8 miles before so that would be an obstacle but I've run 7 miles and felt like I could have gone further.

Anyway, I suppose when I don't go to the gym and run I have idle thoughts about running. And this is what I come up with. I really should be taking it easy, both physically and mentally. The physically part I've got down. It's just the mental aspect that needs some work.

Now what?

Although I beat my goal of 55:00 in the Mission Inn 10K, I struggled in the race. I didn't feel nearly as prepared as I did for the Mud Run. I was beat down and wore out at the end of the Mission Inn, more so than the other times I've ran six miles. Now, aside from the Mud Run none of those times came in a race setting.

Part of my problem I think was that my goal was never to run the Mission Inn Run. It really only became something that I'd participate in once I was done with the Mud Run. I probably should have taken a longer break after running the Mud Run than I did and the three weeks between races was not enough time to rest and recover properly and train for another long-distance race.

So now that I'm in full rest mode, I'm going to ponder what I want to make as my next goal. There are a couple of races I've come across that I'm eyeing for 2009 and one I've already decided on going for.

- FONTANA DAYS 2009. This is the biggie for me. I will run the half-marathon here. It's on June 6, 2009 which makes it come during an ideal time of the year. I found a good training regimen for a half-marathon and it requires 10 weeks of training for the race. That puts met at starting to train for the race in mid-March or so. That also fits well with the weather here in Southern California - not too hot to run - and with my work schedule. For some reason, the last three springs have been very kind to me in terms of finding time to work out. So this one's a given, and expect to see lots of posts on this in the coming weeks and months.

- DISNEYLAND 5K: I really wanted to run this one over Labor Day Weekend but it did not work out. I'm all about Disneyland as I've got season passes and go there quite a bit so naturally the Disneyland 5K in 2009 would be a great option for me. I think it would be fantastic to run through the park in a race setting. The Disneyland race weekend featured a half-marathon as well but I would probably prefer to run a half-marathon at the start of the summer than towards the end. The Disneyland Half-Marathon is slated for Sept. 6, 2009. Oh yeah, there's the cost as well. It's $120. But the 5K is the day before and "only" $40. That might be an option, depending on how the Fontana 1/2 marathon goes.

- RUN THROUGH REDLANDS: This one might be an intriguing option for a race in the middle of next spring. The Run Through Redlands is scheduled for April 19, 2009 and features a 5K, 10K and 1/2 marathon. It depends on how running a 5K would fall in line with my 1/2 marathon training schedule but if it does - and I think it probably will - it may be something good to participate. Redlands is a nice town and running the 5K would be a nice way to experience another part of the IE.

- MUD RUN(S) - I'm addicted. After one race, I'm sold on the Mud Run. I'd love to make it a yearly tradition with my brothers. I haven't yet seen any dates but they might hold the race in spring sometime, in June and in October - at least that's what it was like in 2008 and 2007 I believe. I'd probably for the October one again just because it wouldn't interfere with the 1/2 marathon training schedule.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Shots from the Mud Run

It seems that with each passing day I find myself thinking more and more fondly of the Mud Run. It really was an awesome experience and since it dominated much of my thinking for most of this year, I still feel rather empty now that I don't have it in front of me.

But I'll always have memories. Some of them are right here in my hands now. I got these pictures from my brother and I'm finally able to put them on here.

My brother Jesse and I stayed the night in a hotel in Oceanside the day before the race. That explains my excited state as we ride the bus to the start line. I think Jesse is suffering through a mixture of shock, nerves and sleepiness at this point.

Danny in the middle is always trying to show off. However, I beat him by about 14 minutes. Sure, he had promised to run alongside his wife who had never run six miles at once before and runs slow to begin with, but that's not the point...

Here's our group after everyone finished. On the outside are the two who had run the race before and the five in between (those with shirts on) had just ran it for the first time. It's a little hard to tell but all of us are completely dirty at this point, including our dirty brown socks!

I think you can tell the depths of our dirtiness here in this shot. My brother's shirt was white before the race, it looks pale brown and quite filthy here. My socks were white as well, and they look pretty much gray as do my shoes.

And here I am, number 1065.

Trying to recover

After Sunday's Mission Inn Run, it's not a matter of me thinking of recovering, it's a matter of figuring out how to recover. I scoured the web and found a few bits of advice but only one that really grabbed my attention and made sense.

Here's the link. It seems pretty thorough and the site seems respectable so I'm taking the advice a a bit to heart.

Now, the story is for a 10-point recovery plan following a race and includes steps to do immediately afterward. That ship has sailed but I can still salvage something from the story, mainly what to do in the days after the race.

- The story suggests light training the day after the race. I took today off but was planning on some easy recovery on Tuesday, two days after the race. I'm actually undecided on that right now but the story makes sense and perhaps I will end up going after all. I seem to have been right on my inclination to stay away from running and switch up my work out. I'd wanted to ride a bike and the story suggests doing so would be a good idea. Still, I'm not certain how many times this week I should go to the gym. I'm thinking Tuesday and Thursday would be good, and if I do so I'll be on the bike.

- Stretch. I stretched some after the race and that was part of the post-race recovery plan. But stretching before and especially after the easy recovery at the gym is key. Muscles need stretching and they need to be warm in order to help the recovery.

- Some type of massage is recommended. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed my visit to the Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa in June, I don't foresee another trip anytime soon.

- Refocus. I have a training plan in place for the coming year. It's not really quite a plan yet I suppose, just some races I'm planning on running. But I will hit this hard on in a coming post. The only problem is the short-term as I am not planning on racing anymore in 2008.


The Mission Inn Run race results are up and I finished in closer to 52 minutes than 53. I ran it in 52:22. I realize that is not a great time if I were a competitor but I beat my goal time by more than two minutes. I wanted to finish under 55 minutes. I knew 50 minutes or under would be too much to ask for, so I thought 55 minutes would be more realistic.

I finished in 293rd place, right behind a 54-year-old, uh, person (Terry something) and right ahead of a 53-year-old woman.

As for the other Buenos, my younger brother finished in 49:54, just a shade under 50 minutes, while my youngest brother ran it in 53:06. Great times for both. Danny wanted to run it in under 55 minutes too and he tore that apart and got under 50. Jesse had never run six miles before and now he has, in pretty damned good time too.

Seeing the results on paper is a bit strange. You put in all the effort and emotion and desire and everything into the race and really, the only lasting tangible things you get are the race bib and the time, and eventually if the bib fades or gets lost, the time is the only thing that stands the test of, well, time.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Links galore

As sponsors of the event, The Press-Enterprise newspaper provided great coverage of Sunday's Mission Inn Run. And I was even a part of it. If you watch closely, you'll see me running past the camera.

Yup, that's me in the blue.
But seriously, the newspaper really did have good coverage of the event. Here's a link to the story with the accompanying video.
And here's a link to some pretty good photos from the event.

A strong push to finish

Sunday was going to be a good day no matter what. I felt as much when I got up this morning. It was going to be good for several reasons:

- The Mission Inn Run was today and I was going to participate in it.
- The race would cap off a year that saw me run in three races, and actually I ran those in a span of six months.
- It would also mark the end of my running... for now. By no means am I stopping but I need a break from running.

I was running the race with my two younger brothers, Danny (27) and Jesse (19). The older one of the two is an experienced runner, and all-around athlete, while the younger is in his running infancy. So I had others to help keep me company.

We got there early, pre-registered and made our way around the beginning of the route. My wife and girls were there too from the start and helped cheer me on.

At 8:30, we stood on the start line with a daunting six miles standing between myself and personal glory.

Gee, that seems really long right about now.

The horn sounded off and hundreds of shoes hit the street. I was near the front at the start but I settled well back of the leaders. If there was anyone to avoid in helping me keep pace, it was the speed burners up front. I wanted to save some of my energy for the end.

We ran down the main street of the race and made our way toward a park on the edge of the city. The scenery was actually things we'd see again as the 10K route called for us to run the 5K route twice. Near the end of the street, we sloped downhill and ran into a path that cut through the park.

It was pretty even terrain at that point and I guessed we were at around the mile mark.

See? Just five miles more.

I hadn't been in the best conditions during the week to train so I did not enter the race with much confidence. I knew I could finish it but I was worried I'd struggle. But early on, there were no negative effects from my setbacks this week.

The path was actually quite scenic. It took us near the edge of the lake and several people were there fishing.

I wish I would have gone fishing instead.

I looked far ahead to see if I could make out the curvature of the path and sure enough I saw dozens of runners around the bend and through the trees. Pretty soon, we were running around the last vestiges of the lake and the park in general as a neighborhood - and cups of water - awaited us.

Wait. Is that an uphill run?

Sure enough, the water was a small positive to what was a major negative. A hill greeted us. Now, it wasn't a very steep hill. But I feared that in my less-than-stellar condition I would have problems with the hill. Still, I tried to keep my pace and did well to reach the top. A bend followed and we were headed down toward the main street, which is actually Market Street.

I made a right on Market and saw other runners headed toward me. We had to run about three blocks to the turnaround point before starting the second portion of the run.

Okay, you did the first half fine. Just do that again and you'll be good.

Still, I didn't feel good. I felt just okay. My heart rate had straddled the 180s for most of the second part of the run up to that point and that only meant it was going to climb for the remainder of the race. For me, 180 is manageable but the closer I get to 185 the more I have to conserve my strength. I'd love to run between 170-180 but I was past the point of keeping it in the 170s unless I wanted to slow down.

No slowing down. I've got to finish this as quick as possible.

I went back down Market towards Fairmount Park. There weren't as many people as there had been the first time I ran that way but there were still quite a few runners around me. I got back into the park, ran back the same path and was prepared to see the lake once again when I ran past a sign that said Mile 4.

"32 minutes and 32 seconds," a voice shouted as I ran by. That was encouraging. If I'd already ran four miles, that meant I only had two to go.

Actually, 2.2.

And the time was also encouraging. Four miles in 32 minutes was a good pace for me.

Wait a minute. Did the sign mean I had already ran four miles or that I was starting my fourth mile? Big difference.

For the sake of my confidence and my mental state, I decided that I'd ran four miles already. Besides, if that was the three-mile mark, that wouldn't have made much sense for the 5K.

Buoyed by a surge of confidence, I tried to pick up my pace. I had been going to a rather easy pace, perhaps a bit slower than I could have ran otherwise but now was the time to move quicker. My legs responded though at first extending my legs further was a bit more difficult than I'd anticipated.

Finally, the park was at an end. The water station awaited, as did the hill. But I felt strong.

Time to make a move.

A group of runners slowed on the hill. I glanced at my watch and saw 184. I had some in reserve and I wanted to use it. I took some large strides up the hill and passed by several people. When the street flattened out, so too did my pace. My watch now read 191.

You've gotta slow down.

I nearly used up most of my reserves and I still had - what a mile? - left before the finish. I slowed but even if I hadn't my body would have forced me to. My heart rate was still in the high 180s and I felt it.

Up came Market Street and the final stretch run. I wanted to wait until I was close enough to the finish to use up the rest of my reserves. In the distance I saw my wife and girls cheering me on. That, coupled with the the motivating messages I'd received from some friends earlier in the morning, helped me get through the finale.

I sprinted. I had just one block left and I wanted to run hard and finish hard. I was so focused on the finish line and finishing strong that I failed to notice the big clock situated near the finish line.

Come on! One last push!

And with that, I crossed the line. I had nothing left in me. Every muscle in my leg was wide awake and yelling, probably swear words, at me. My left foot throbbed and my hamstrings felt like they were a good lunge from ripping off the bone. I wanted to sit but more than that I wanted to walk. I needed to cool down and get a semblance of my former self back. Danny had finished about three minutes before me while Jesse ran about a minute behind me, maybe less.

When I finally met up with my wife and girls, she asked me how I felt and I filled her in on my aching muscles. She then asked me if I was glad I'd run the race.

Hell yes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Break before breaking

My back pain is trying to tell me something.

As I said earlier, it's not necessarily horrible pain. I can feel it some, and when I do certain things I can feel it more. But in terms of pain, this one's kinda got a low ranking.

But this pain may be onto something. It may be telling me that it's time for a break.

When I signed up for the Mud Run in - when was it March? - I immediately started training for it. I'd never really ran much before but now, many months later I like to consider myself a runner. I've ran quite a lot since then. I used to keep a log of my runs right here before I took a hiatus and lost count. But I'd say I've ran an average of three times a week since, at worst April.

Maybe I'm breaking down. Maybe I need a break before I break.

I've heard before that after a race you need to shut it down for a week or two. But I also sorta figured that that shouldn't really apply to me because it's a 10K, not a half-marathon or more. But I probably should have followed that advice or at the very least looked into it more.

So I think my plan will be this: after Sunday's Mission Inn Run, I will take a well-deserved break from running. I can't stay too long off my feet because I'm starting a new part-time thing that will involve running. But for a week or two after the Mission Inn Run I will stay off my feet.

The second part of the plan is this: I'll do easy recovery for a couple of weeks. I don't want to just stop altogether so I think I'll spend some time on the bike. My heart rate probably won't get up to the levels it does when I run but I'll be doing some cardio workouts nonetheless.

Next year, I've all but decided, I will run the Fontana Days half-marathon on June 6. I found a plan that will help me train for it (I'm sure I'll develop this matter quite a bit in the near future) so I won't completely get away from running. In fact, I rather enjoy it.

But I also enjoy feeling comfortable. And right now, I can't say that I'm 100 percent comfortable.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Way off

I ran 3.1 miles today. Well, I actually ran three miles and cooled down for one-tenth of a mile. I should be happy that I ran three miles, that I was able to make decent time especially considering Sunday's 10K.

But I'm not. It was a lousy workout. I'd go so far as saying that it was one of the worst workouts I've had in months.

I've been thinking about it, wondering why things went so bad. From the moment I stepped on the treadmill, it felt bad. I just never was able to get in a groove both physically and mentally. I wasn't even done with my first mile and my heart rate was close to 170. It got as high as 189, and for a three-mile run that's excessively high. That means I was exerting a great deal of energy when I shouldn't have been. Around the 2.5 mile mark I snapped out of it, or so I thought. I started to feel good, feel in a bit of a rhythm but as I approached three miles, I knew I'd only continue to struggle.

So I did the unthinkable. I hit the stop button two miles before my goal.

It's good sometimes to have bad workouts, honestly. It's good because it helps you re-assess your goals, to sort through what works and what doesn't and move on from there. I had a poor workout and it may be for several reasons.

- I was in a rush this morning. From the get-the-daughters-to-school routine that dominates my household every morning to trying to fit in a trip to the grocery store and, oh yeah, voting in the presidential election, I crammed my morning excessively.

- I didn't sleep well. I thought I had gotten enough rest last night but maybe I didn't. I usually wear a CPAP to sleep, well, let me take that back. I am supposed to wear a CPAP but I haven't used it regularly in months. Perhaps this is a wake-up call that I need to get back to that.

- My back hurts. Well, it does actually but I didn't really feel my back until after the run. But maybe I had the thought of not hurting my back deep in my mind somewhere and maybe that's why I struggled.

- Candy! I haven't had a lot of Halloween candy but my overall eating the last few days has been rough. Between taking a bus trip to Utah and the few pieces of candy (and too much Monterey Jack cheese on Monday evening) maybe my diet has been off.

Well, there are several different possible scenarios for why my workout did not work out for me on Tuesday. I'm going to rest on Wednesday and get back at it on Thursday. I'm going to do my best to rest well the night before, to stay on my usual balanced and proper diet and to not stress about household duties. Back to the basics then.

And then in retrospect maybe today's workout won't be so bad.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Eat Rarely!

A while back, I posted something about the Men's Health Abs Diet. Now, I don't follow this per se and I don't really think I'm on a diet. But I love this chart I got from one of my Men's Health magazines. So I kept it and use it as a bit of a cheat sheet. It reminds me what foods are good for me and which ones I should stay away from.

It's broken down into four categories: Eat Rarely, Eat Occasionally, Eat Often and the Abs Diet Bulls Eye. Now, I'm not trying to get a washboard stomach or anything, hence the not-following part. But the list in general is good, so I decided to share it with you.

The largest group is Eat Rarely. Of course, it's filled with tasty foods, foods that you can find yourself eating often if you're not careful. I'm breaking the list down so you don't have to digest it all at once. Woe is the person who digests all of this food at once!

EAT RARELY: bagels, beer (regular), breads (made with white flour), brownies, burgers (fast food), burritos (frozen), cake, candy, cereals (sugary), chicken (fried), chicken wings, chips.

Okay, let's take a breath. I suppose none of these foods would be too surprising to be here. Maybe white bread... maybe, but the rest seem like no-brainers to avoid. I used to eat frozen burritos religously, back before my fitness and cooking renaissance. Those had about 400 calories per pop and I'd usually eat two per meal. Yikes.

EAT RARELY (cont.): cinnamon rolls, coffee (high sugar), cookies, croissants, danish, dips (creamy), doughnuts, fish sticks (frozen), french fries, fruit juices (sugar added), hot dogs.

Probably from this group I have most problems with cookies. If they're around, I eat them. So that's why I don't make them more often. I try and avoid giving too much fruit juices to my daughters but sometimes it's difficult.

EAT RARELY (cont.): jellies, malts, margarine, nachos (restaurant), non-dairy creamer, packaged desserts, pancakes (made w/white flour), pasta with creamy sauce, pie, pizza.

Pizza is also difficult to avoid. Still, I think if you have to have pizza and limit yourself to two slices you should be okay.

EAT RARELY (cont.): popcorn (buttered), popsicles, refried beans, salad dressings (creamy), sausage (pork), scones.

I'm Mexican so I just can't give up refried beans. Not possible. But I do limit myself. I can't make scones so that's not a problem.

EAT RARELY (cont.): seafood (fried), soft drinks, toaster pastries, vegetables (fried), waffles (made w/white flour), whipped cream.

Okay, that's the end of it. When people ask me how I did it, how I lost my weight, the first thing I tell them usually is that I gave up certains foods and the first thing I tell is sodas. Giving up sodas is so simple. There are plenty of alternatives to drinking soda. Myself, I stick to water. I'd say about 80-90 percent of what I drink is water. The other 10 is a mix of coffee, beer, diet soda... wow, that sounds toxic!

Anyway, it's always good to revisit this list. I have it hanging on my refrigerator and refer to it weekly, if not daily.

Keep an eye out for foods from the other sections. Not as lengthy but quite thought-provoking.