Thursday, September 26, 2013

30-Day Paleo Food Challenge

I've become a big fan of the Primal / Paleo "movement" if that's what you'd want to call it.  I don't consider it a "diet" but more of a guide that corrects some of the habits we've become accustomed to in the manufactured-food world we live in.  I got caught up in it about 1-2 years ago and it seems that there's a bigger trend in the direction of whole, organics foods and general fitness than in years prior to 2012 or so.  And not because it's trendy to go organic or join a crossfit box or any of that but because people are actually realizing the damage done by what we've been calling "food" for so long and that the old saying "Garbage in = garbage out."  I think Confucius said that.

In short, I'm an advocate.  I could write a lot about what it's done for me but I'm just going to say 40 lbs ago, I thought I knew what a semi-healthy diet and lifestyle was and I consider the weight loss a side-effect;  I really just wanted to start eating higher quality fuel.  I have really embraced the Primal plan outlined by one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Sisson.  Read it and live it.  Buy his book- I bought 3.  I read mine, made my dad read it, then bought 2 more to share with people.  It's not hard.  It's the simple tools you need to get fit.  Shit, if counting calories worked, we'd have only skinny people.  This works and it's pretty much how our grandparents and all older generations really ate.

So well after Kristen introduced me to this paleo thing, she's started up with a crossfit box in Conshohocken twice a week.  Her crossfit is kicking off a 30-day paleo challenge that requires a full commitment to the acceptable foods.  It's not far from what we eat on any given day but we have adopted something more like the 80/20 guide in Sisson's book Primal Blueprint.  I like it because 1. I already said it works and 2. I don't have to be that a-hole that says "oh I don't eat that, it's not in my diiieeeeettttt" I eat whatever options are in front of me, making the best choices and when there aren't any great choices, I make do with what I have to.  Living with too many restrictions ain't no life I want to live.  Besides, sometimes a burger, fries and beer are what the doctor ordered.  (And like I'm going to give up alcohol.  HA!)

With that loose 80/20 guide, I'm down to 9% body fat (give or take whatever % error there is with the handheld tester I have).  That's pretty low and I am eating well, never hungry and have been kinda slacking lately with training but I'll just blame that on the damn shin splint that won't die.  I'd been aiming for 7-point-something as an "optimal" body composition for running but I don't have any big races coming up so I'm happy at 9 for this training period.  For a good read on body composition, read Racing Weight.  It's informative and goes beyond "lighter is faster, duh."

Anyway, I think I'm going to bump my 80 up to 90 or 95 with Kristen to support her.  She's allowed me to go on boozing up and all that fun stuff but I'm interested to see if there's any noticeable difference in my physiology with that kind of change.  It's the least I can do.  I'll make an effort to drink far less beer and make a good red wine the choice on the rare occasion I will drink.

The only time I'll feel compelled to have a few drinks in October is for my dad's 60th birthday.  Otherwise, we already cook almost exclusively paleo stuff.  My favorite paleo meal is breakfast; I can eat bacon and eggs almost every day.  So, October, bring it on.

I think the worst part of this 30-day challenge is that it will probably limit our visits to Tired Hands in Ardmore.  That place is my new favorite.  We'll make a hell of a return in November.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

9/17/13 Training Update

By now, I recognize I have no rhyme or reason to when I will write a post.  When I am so moved, I will write.  Not a lot has evolved since my last race event but I think I've licked the shin splint that's been bugging my left leg for a few weeks.

Feeling stronger after some rest and some limited workouts by relegating myself to mostly swim workouts and a few bike rides, I decided I'd become restless enough and felt strong enough to go risk some damage and hit the trails.  7 miles later, I felt pretty good, pleased with the distance for having only run a little bit since the North East tri several weeks before.  With Ragnar around the corner, some quality mileage is required.

When a brief heat wave dissipated last week on Friday, the weather has been phenomenal.  Mid 40's in the morning, maybe touching 70 as a high and sunny blue skies, it's the kind of weather where I flirt with the idea of quitting my job and becoming a mountain man.  Seriously.  I love it outside.  Church is officially on Sunday but there's a lot of Spirit outside, lost in the woods, any time, any day.  Nature truly is my happy place... I think I'm becoming a hippie... CRAP.

After the run, post-run shake and some relaxing, Kristen and I visited her Crossfit Box to watch a small gym to gym crossfit games competition.  It was pretty awesome.  I could see myself enjoying that kind of competition but there are cost limitations going on here.  Adding $130-150 per month isn't really one of the things I think I need to do.  I'm already going to add USANA supplements back into my daily nutrition regimen which isn't very cheap.  I have no intention of hiring a coach, either.  I'm prepared to self-coach and suck before I submit to paying someone to identify and fix my faults and weak points.

Saturday night was a boozey, "dirty-30" birthday party for a good friend but I think after finally logging 7 beautiful miles on foot, it was time for some reward.  Sunday morning was a little painful but we survived, chowed down at a diner, did our grocery shopping, went to church and I had time to go to Dick's for some cycling supplies all before 11.  Not bad for arriving home at 1AM that morning.  I was compelled to go for my longest ride in years.  I was considering going out for an hour then making my way home so I loaded up on water, gu, snacks, Hammer perpetuem and a fully charged Garmin.  I rode out on the Schuylkill trail to Valley Forge and found my way to some really beautiful sections of trail through the Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.  I rode around there for a loop then found the Perkiomen Trail and rode north for a few more miles before turning around for a cruise home and to ice my legs.  I rode almost exactly 30 miles that afternoon and celebrated by making some pulled pork.

 Garmin's services were down so I couldn't look at the details yet of my run and bike but based on overall feeling, I was very pleased with them.  I'm anxious to have a few longer rides soon and build up the mileage and pace.

I rested yesterday, and had a quick swim this morning.  I forgot my Garmin so I was forced to pay attention to my yardage.  The first 500 yds ticked off very easily then I broke into a set of 100's on 1:45.  I wasn't sure how many I'd do but getting really bored with it after only 4, I warmed down and headed to the office.   I know I'm hitting a mental wall at 1000-1200 yds with my swimming workouts.  Swimming is always easier when you're not trying to do a workout alone and you have at least a workout partner to pace, chase or race.  I skipped the USMS 5K over the weekend and may take on the 3000/6000 challenge.  There's a yardage hurdle that I think is my mental block.  Once I regularly swim about 2-3 miles/pool workout, I am certain my swimming gains will be more quickly realized.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Back in the Pool

I joined US Masters Swimming today for a small fee of $28.  I hadn't realized that it will expire 12/31/13 anyway so... my bad.  But I will have to put some meets on the calendar before then to get at least something out of it.

When I finished HS swimming ages ago in 2000, I was obviously at my fastest ever.  I was also a sprinter but I can tell now, I can hold up longer much better than ever before over longer distances.  I know I won't be around 23 seconds in the 50 Free or 50 in the 100, but it's an interesting idea to me to see what times I can push as I get more fit for swims over 1 mile.

While PA appears to be a barren wasteland for masters swimming, there is a meet in DC on Oct 12 where I may enter to get a few events in, then in NJ in Nov, a short course meter event.  Seriously, with the size of the greater Philly region, it's a shame there isn't more nearby.

My goals have changed since HS.  I'm watching my overall pace over several hundred yard sets and working to make it drop.  I started around 1:33/100 yds (short course) and am creeping down to the mid 1:20s.  I've also dropped about 10 more lbs from when I started swimming in May (although I'm not conditioned like I was back then nor rail thin like I was in HS.  I think I graduated at 150 lb).  I want to hold under 1:15 pace in open water swims > .5 mile.  This is reasonable and totally doable.  According to my race data, I think I'm around a 22:20 mile pace, which is a little slower than 1:20/100yds (and that's my attempt at removing the run portion of this leg).

I couldn't hold faster than 1:00 pace for over 200 yds back in HS but that's going to be my 5K version of swimming.  The 200 is a great distance to get used to understanding your basic ability, similar to a 5K in running; It's a great baseline distance on the threshold of spring and longer distance.  But one thing that really stinks about my HS career ending 13 years ago is I have no records of my best times for each event.  I'm mostly interested in my 200 and 500 yd free times.  I have ideas about where some times were but my race notebook is long lost in some landfill.  I did find some old district championship results that have a few best times: 22.81 in the 50 free and 50.32 in the 100 (and 49.36 relay split in our 4x100 free relay, unofficially broke 50!).

So I kickstarted my swimming in May at a YMCA close to work.  Slowly, my yardage per workout increased, my speed increased and even this morning I surprised myself with a quick 100 IM time, just to see what I could knock out on the fly.  Not a time to brag about but an in-the-water start and just cranking through it and knocking out a fast swim, I knew where I would have been quicker.  Sort of an "ah-ha! I can do this!" moment which is awesome.  I'm certain I'll put down sub-minute 100's again someday but the real challenge is getting to the point where I am consistently leading the pack into the bike stage.  I'll deal with my bike problems this winter...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Building the 2014 Race Calendar

Running in the winter is still a tricky thing for me.  Last winter was pretty cold, I remember running in single digits being pretty painful.  But, hey, that's what makes us stronger.  After all, we have to keep it up especially when the only things on my calendar after my October Ragnar are a very difficult 50K and the American Triple T.  I have to continue my training with serious purpose in the sometimes brutal mid Atlantic.  Cold weather running is something other people have figured out already so I'm sure I'll figure it out, too.

So with 2 absurd races as the only definite events on my calendar, I am determined to shore up my fitness base leading up to these.  Where does one begin in their search?, I've found compiles lists of races I'd prefer to avoid. is actually pretty good for some running races in addition to triathlons and duathlons. is also pretty good.  But I'm going to start on the more challenging (badass) side and browse

The first thing reasonably close is in north Jersey with several distance options.  The Watchung Run can be a 10K, half, marathon or 50K.  Any entry is a minimum donation of only $25.  No race swag but hey, not a bad price to pay someone to organize a trail run, especially in the winter.  And compared to a tri, that's practically free.  While I'd like to get a half or full marathon into 2013, it's not looking very likely.  My current plan is to make the Watchung a marathon.  It appears to be a 10K loop.  Ice cold trail race in early January, check.

In late March, the 22nd, there's another 50K trail run I'm interested in in Havre de Grace, MD.  The HAT run will be a great long run well spaced between the Watchung and give me a month before the Ironmasters Challenge to recover and get some more steady swimming and cycling training in.  Registration opens on 11/29 to only 500 runners and has a cutoff pace a bit quicker than my last 50K of 13 min/mi.

April 27 will be my second Ironmasters Challenge 50K.  It's a very tough course and is my first ultra distance run event.  I couldn't manage to keep up with my raceplan the first time and have determined to crush my 2013 showing next year.

The week following the Ironmasters, May 4, is the Devilman Half Lite 50.  I'm really interested in adding this to my calendar but a little apprehensive to do so right after the Ironmasters Challenge.  It may be worth considering dropping the Ironmasters 50K... I'm a little torn on this today but I may bum it on the 50K and run it to support Kristen and consider it a training run so I can compete in the Devilman.

Now, I'm not entirely sure what really compelled me to make the American Triple T the first triathlon event I'd ever register for.  I enjoy a challenge, and this certainly is.  It just sounds insane, so why not?  It also provided me the opportunity to get something on the calendar that will force me to work toward being a strong triathlete immediately, rather than just get a few on the calendar to "try out" the sport and see how I like it.   I already knew I would enjoy this thing.
The other Triple T.  WOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Eagleman is a competitive half Ironman on June 8th.  I haven't done this one yet but I know it's a pretty serious qualifier event (for other people, anyway, not me). It will be really cool to do and watch those trying to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 world championships or the Ironman Kona just blow the field away.

While starting my 2014 event search, I get this from Adam.  This will be late June and sounds like a must-do race. I'll keep my eyes on this and watch it develop.

In mid July is Diamond in the Rough.  Being my first tri event, I'll be putting this back on my calendar.  It was great to show up and place in my first ever tri but I will likely move up in to the olympic distance for 2014.  It was obvious last year that as such a short sprint distance tri, the more competitive crowd was out for the olympic distance.  I recall thinking after my finish I couldn't imagine doing about double that... Kind of like my first 5K.

Again in August, I'm sure I'll revisit the North East Tri. Not sure of the distance yet but it was a really great course.... of the 2 I've been on...

While that's only a handful of events, I want one big one and I think it is the Nation's Tri in DC.  I assume it will be the same weekend next year and fall on the 7th.  I hear it's a great event and I know Adam finished it well this morning.  I think it will be a solid cap to 2014 if I make it another goal race.  There will be a lot of pros here and I will hope that the next 12 months really build up to that event.

While my calendar isn't packed full, I felt it important to find the events I think will be a difficult field and can build my training to my major race weeks.  I will certainly pepper in a few more races as they show up on or or any other site to use as a training race or barometer of my training progress.  When races start putting their dates on the calendar, I will start filling up June, July and August.

Meanwhile, I've got to destroy this nagging shin splint in my left leg and formulate my training plan based on this pretty open schedule.