Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

Its that time of year again, time to get rid of that "bulge" that has developed over the past year, either from overindulging or just doing steady state endurance training, which as I mentioned a while back, does nothing to really trim the fat from the body, just helps maintain a healthy or almost healthy weight.

Since discontinuing the long endurance training needed for IM, then the holidays, and winter in general, which I believe in cold weather climates leads to the body wanting to cling to any extra fat you might carry in order to stay warm, I can't help but start feeling out of shape by this time every year, regardless of how much I am exercising or watching what I eat.

And since I no longer run 35-40 miles a week or have four small children to run around after, I have found over the past 5 years or so especially that the only true way for me to get back into racing shape is to do the drastic "detox" method of dieting for anywhere from 2-4 weeks. This has always proven successful in helping me lose up to 15 pounds of weight that apparently I don't really need. My goal this year isn't quite that drastic, but it certainly is the best way--for me--to drop 5-7 pounds within a few weeks. And what better time than the off season?

What this involves is no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol, no starchy foods, no "white" flour foods. While I don't find it that hard to give up sweets or snacks, I do find it hard to give up toast, french fries, peanut butter (massive amounts), or other salty foods, all comfort foods for me. Those are my downfall. And if I do drink wine, it only increases my chance of eating more of these foods than I need. I am just one of those people who has to completely stop eating something to quit binging on stuff I don't need. Binging isn't necessarily the right word, but I can't think of anything else close to describe this. Maybe getting out of control at times is a better way of putting it.

Anyway, I am on day 9 of this process. Its an up and down thing. What do you eat when you go out to eat? How do you tactfully avoid certain foods when asked to dinner at a friend's? How do you avoid the cocktails and nuts at the pre-dinner meeting cocktail hour? How do you balance things out so you're just not living on veggies and water all day? How do you keep from thinking about food all day? What happens if you forget to read a label, assuming you know what is in a particular food and find out later there is hidden sugar? And the most challenging, how do you handle workouts and eating, while still managing to eat "clean" and maintain muscle and not become a limp rag?

It is hard to be constantly vigilant, and I tell myself every year I will be good all year to avoid this process next year. But my memory is short apparently, and once again I fell into that trap last year.

So far, in 9 days, I have managed to go down about 2.5 pounds, which I think is a fairly normal loss, not necessarily related to water loss because I don't tend to retain water ever. I have been going more frequently just because of increased water intake and that tendency to flush out the system, especially cutting out the excess things the body really doesn't need to survive. But its very hard to tell yourself no when all these temptations are around.

After 9 days, however, your body starts listening to your brain, and it starts becoming second nature to avoid certain things you know are only going to put you back on that roller coaster again. The true test is not the "detox" or "deprivation" stage is continuing this good eating plan throughout the year.

This year....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

I have been mulling over and over in my mind, doing research, looking at the calendar, etc. trying to get 2010 races mapped out so I can start planning vacation. All the things I've looked at had some conflict, even if minor, which kept me looking over and over again. There are so many things I want to do, its hard to decide. And added to that is the feeling I have and others have led me to believe I should think this way, that now that I've done an IM, I can pretty much do anything. That, of course, is the positive, confident way to look at it, but I am too much of a realist to fall into that trap completely. And maybe a skeptic or a chicken too. I just know I want to do different training this year than last, so doing another IM this year probably won't happen. What to do, what to do??
Friday while on Facebook, I had a post from Friends of North Country Trail Run. I didn't remember joining that group, but who knows when that happened. Anyway, they were posing a trivia question about one of the new promoters of the race, which was actually bought from a couple of friends of mine who have put on this race (50 miler, marathon) for several years, after having moved onto other endeavors (IM triathlon, bike races, etc.). I have always wanted to do this race but either was injured or training for other things at the time it was held every year (late September). The first clue of the trivia question they posed was something like who was a big time marathoner and who also did 5 Ironman triathlons? (Sorry, can't get to the post to copy the actual text.) Hmm. Could be anyone, I thought. Second clue: and who also won the 199___ Smoky Mt. Marathon, etc.?
Right away, without knowing for sure, I responded "Bart Yasso." Sure enough, I was right. Why did I guess Bart Yasso? Because I was actually at the 1998 Smoky Mt. Marathon and sat next to him at the prerace dinner (I think he was also the guest speaker). I had gone with a group of friends who had been doing this race as a group road trip for years, even though I was only doing the 8k because of an injury. One of the guys in our group actually went with the intention of winning the race, and he did come in second place--behind Bart Yasso. Bart Yasso has also written for Runners World for many, many years, and is the creator of the Yasso 800s so many have talked about or used in marathon training. Yasso 800s are supposed to be a predictor of your marathon finish: how fast you run an 800 in minutes translates over to hours in finishing. For example, if you run an 800 in 4 minutes, all indicators are that you can finish a marathon in 4 hours.
I used this training method for my first marathon, and we were running in the 4-4:30 range for the 800s, and had I not hit the wall at 7 miles, had temperatures in the teens, with a 40 mile headwind, I might have finished faster than the 4:36 I finished, but I was pretty close to the predictor time, so I feel it worked and gave me a good idea of what I could do.
Anyway, I'm getting off subject here. So I won the trivia contest, and my "prize" then was $20 off registration for any of the races being held (50 miler, marathon, and now a new half marathon).
So it looks like now a new focus for the year will be to do that trail marathon. The only disappointment here is that it is held in late August instead of late September, so that means changing other things around as well. I have found two other trail half marathons close by I can do this year to prepare, and we have a fairly new trail running area off the bike path I will start using once the weather permits. I actually swore off trail runs a few years ago after one particularly grueling off road triathlon. I have to say that run was one of the worst I have ever done (almost 2 hours to do 4.8 miles), but of course my big fear was spraining an ankle again.
I still plan to do some tris, and hope to still fit in a half Ironman this year, but it may be fun to look at some new things for 2010.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"WASHINGTON – A mystery object from space is about to whizz close by Earth on Wednesday. It won't hit our planet, but scientists are stumped by what exactly it is.

Astronomers say it may be space junk or it could be a tiny asteroid, too small to cause damage even if it hit. It's 33 to 50 feet wide at most.NASA says that on Wednesday at 7:47 a.m. EST, it will streak by, missing Earth by about 80,000 miles. In the western United States it may be bright enough to be seen with a good amateur telescope."

What was more mysterious to me than the imagined picture of the object itself was the lack of significance of this happening yesterday at 7:47 EST since first, it would be too dark in most places in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. at that time of the day to see, second, it wasn't supposed to cause any damage even if it did hit somewhere on earth so why would this be news, and third, I would have thought the earthquake in Haiti might have far more importance over this insignificant little report, with misspellings and bad grammar besides.

I just thought it was a weird picture that might leave everyone mystified by what it might be.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Congratulations to all who ran the Disney races this past weekend with the horribly frigid weather. I'm sure that's not what you were planning when you signed on for this. I'm sure you were thinking what a nice break it would be, getting away from the snow, cold, and ice of most of us deal with in the winter months. At least you didn't have (much) the snow and ice. Hopefully you had a good time otherwise!

It was another cold, cold weekend here also. I was tempted to stay inside to run, but instead I thought of my post the day before, about getting outside more often, even if just for a short run. That was motivation enough. That and the brightness of the sun and the almost perfectly blue skies, a true rarity here on the west side of Michigan. Our weather is mainly affected or maybe controlled is a better word, by Lake Michigan. Whatever doesn't break up coming through Minnesota or Wisconsin only seems to pick up with intensity once it hits our west coast and moves inland. So, while the best of the Great Lakes is a blessing, it can also be a bane, leaving us with cloud cover and/or grey skies a lot of the year.

I honestly don't even know where my sunglasses went, its been so long since I've needed them. So I had to head out without them. The sun was almost painfully bright as it reflected off the whiteness of the freshly fallen snow, and I almost wished I had thought of wearing sunscreen. But then again, I was going to enjoy it for once and hoped it would replenish some of my Vitamin D stores of which recently I had read those of us in West Michigan particularly deficient.

I put on my Yak Trax again, which are pretty much becoming a regular part of my winter running gear, and headed out from the park. The park was pretty much empty now from the dozens of runners who show up regularly and faithfully every Saturday and Sunday to run, starting out in the dark even a lot of the time. I wanted to run without a schedule and without having to set my alarm to get up. It was Saturday. It was cold. No need to get out of bed in the dark to go run at this time of the year. And had I done that, while I would have been done earlier and not had to rush to get my other tasks done for the day, I would have missed out on the brilliant winter sun.

The temperature was about 18 degrees, but with that sun out, I didn't even start to feel the cold until just before the end of my run. Even my hands did not feel the least cold, despite the fact I only had gloves on because my mittens were dirty.
Saturday's run was 2 days in a row outside, so I am keeping my promise so far and making progress.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I think the thing I hate about winter the most is not running as much as I would like. When I first started running over 20 years ago, I had no treadmill or access to a gym so was forced to run outside every time. It was my only option. It was all I knew. It probably made me tougher, both physically and mentally, but also led to winter running injuries: slipping on ice; twisting an ankle trying to cross a street with a huge mound of snow at the curb; overuse on ankle tendons trying to keep from sliding all over the place. And then there was the harshness of the weather also. I didn't even have proper winter running gear for the first 3 years so basically froze every time I ran.

The motivating factor in my winter running for years was starting early in the year to train for our annual 25k (15.5 miles) race in early May. And for years (and still to many locals) the defining standard for running that race was under 2 hours for men abd right around 2 hours for women. A hard standard to live up to, especially living in climate of ice, cold, and snow. But many, many did in fact meet that standard.

I came close one year: 2:10. What was the secret that year? Consistent long run training all winter long. I don't remember it being a mild winter so it wasn't the weather that made it easier. It was just consistency. Something I have not followed for the past several years.

With the introduction of a treadmill and access to a gym into my life, I have opted to take the easy way of training by staying inside quite a bit from January through March. Also, since most of my running is done in the early morning hours, and its still dark until almost 8 am, I know its safer and more comfortable, but it doesn't have the same quality as outdoor running. At least for me it doesn't transfer over to running a decent 25k time. While I find it easy enough most of the time to get in 3-5 miles on a treadmill, those miles are usually at speeds way too fast for me to transfer over to outside running. I find myself hurrying just to get it done, or doing fast intervals because I am bored by it. This is okay once or twice a week, but doesn't cut it trying to get in a long run, and we all know that is the key to improvement and the ability to do endurance events. I always vow at the beginning of winter to stay out as long as possible, but then somehow slide on that promise by the time January comes and the sidewalks are no longer clear.

Today I realized for the first time ever how much I miss running in the winter. Walking to do an errand, even though it was cold, windy, and snowing like crazy, it was also somewhat pleasant and exhilirating to be outside, even for a brief while. It has motivated me to find ways to venture out more. Let's see how that goes tomorrow morning.

Monday, January 04, 2010


First things first: getting back on track. After spending a few weeks recovering from the Ironman, next there was my son's wedding, and then the holidays were upon us and then I went back to full weeks of hard training, in addition to fitting in shopping, parties, etc., only to be hit the week of Christmas with whatever it was "going around" in the office and throughout the family. Looking back, I think I jumped in too soon and was still a little run down.

I am definitely feeling MUCH better and hope this continues.

While recovering, many thoughts went through my mind as to what my focus for 2010 would be. One thing I definitely wanted to do was get stronger, meaning adding more weight training into my program. Training for the Ironman did not allow much extra workout time for more than one hastily performed weight training workout a week. As it was, I was working out every single day most weeks, so to add another workout in was unthinkable. Ten workouts a week was all I could imagine and do without totally losing it.

But I knew I had to add in another weight training session, as well as more quality. Adding in another weight training workout was going to require a lot of thinking and planning, but how to do this?? I am constantly reading articles and looking over training plans, but all the weight training plans were not geared around endurance training. In fact, the majority of new thinking on this subject suggested otherwise if you wanted to get completely fit from added strength training. And I know there is a book on weight training for triathletes, but again, most of those programs consisted of too much time in the gym in addition to the long endurance workouts, which I just couldn't bring myself to get excited about or figure out how to fit in.

Then, in a round-about way, I came across a couple of revealing thoughts about weight training in addition to endurance training. One involved a discussion with a guy in my office who has been doing personal training for family and friends for a while now, although he isn't certified. Since he doesn't charge for his services, I thought I would at least pick his brain and try to get some good ideas to start out the new year. During our discussion, he mentioned that he had added 35 pounds of weight over the last few years due to weight training, yet still had 6% body fat and was extremely lean looking, so I started believing he had some credibility on the subject. The second revelation came from reading articles he sent me in addition to going to the links in some of the articles, which eventually led me to read a very interesting article. Here is an excerpt which definitely caught my eye. See if this sounds familiar:

Feeling soft around the midsection? Can't see your abs anymore? Feel the need to get lean in a hurry?Slacking off on your diet and workouts can do that to you. In my case, training for an Ironman triathlon can do that, too.What? Yeah, you heard me right. This is exactly how I felt after training for and completing in my first Ironman.My body was soft, with no definition, and had definitely changed due to spending the majority of my training in the steady-state aerobic zone — the same "fat burning zone" many books and magazine still talk about.I was in great shape as far as my endurance and cardiovascular system were concerned, but I had less noticeable muscle tone and didn't have the definition I was used to having in my abs and arms.

If you want to read the rest of the article, by Rachel Cosgrove, go here. The theory here is that training all the time in the aerobic zone, while necessary for endurance events, is not that fat burning zone we've been led to believe. We have been conditioned to believe that training for hours aerobically, doing steady-state workouts (when you move at the same pace for a certain amount of time), that your body does burn a higher percentage of calories from fat. This is where that "fat burning zone" myth comes from. On the surface, it sounds like you're burning more fat calories. There are two big problems with this: 1. As explained in the article, you burn fewer total calories as your body adapts. So even if you're burning a higher percentage of fat, you aren't burning as many calories overall. 2. Your body actually becomes efficient at storing fat. Since you're now burning fat as your primary source of fuel, your body adapts and becomes very good at storing fat. Blame it on a dumb self-preservation mechanism built into the body's operating system.

This all made sense to me, especially after also reading where she spent 374 hours working out for her Ironman race and the net weight loss was only 5 pounds. I'd have to say the same. People (especially women) always commented they weren't losing any weight, only seeming to gain, while training for an Ironman, and I can again say I felt the same. After talking with my work colleague, he made me feel a little better about this when he mentioned that added muscle was contributing to weight retention or gain (which I already knew and used that excuse in my mind to console myself) and also that BONES gain density from all the weight bearing exercise, which also contributes to added weight, something I hadn't considered.

But even with those two added facts, I still was concerned about adding more weight the next time I trained for an Ironman, which I knew I wanted to do.

So I asked for some ideas from Chris (work colleague) about what he would recommend to not only get stronger, but hopefully leaner in the process, and at the same time continue endurance training. His number one suggestion, of course, was adding more strength training and cutting back on some of the endurance, making the wise comment "your body already knows what to do there" adding that doing higher intensity workouts would only enhance and improve not only my training but my body fat composition and shape as well.

Then I emailed Rachel Cosgrove, asking her how to combine the two also, since she had the added credibility of being not only an Ironman finisher but also a triathlon coach. She also has a new book out which has gotten very good reviews, The Female Body Breakthrough. I am in the process of obtaining that book and am looking forward to reading it. Anyway, here is Rachel's response to my email:

Ahhh yes, trying to merge Endurance training and fat loss training. I always had this idea in my head that I wanted to cross the finish line of an endurance race looking like a fit female and I could do it on shorter distance races - up to an Olympic Distance Triathlon (or a 2-3 hour race). Anytime, I start training for anything beyond that it is tough to keep a firm physique. You have to fuel your body for the event and your body adapts to the workouts so quickly. I have written many articles on this and talk about it in my book. Your best bet is if you can set aside 12-16 weeks to focus on becoming a fit female before your event and then the goal is to keep it while training for your event. But that doesn't mean that you cannot do The Female Body Breakthrough if you are already training for something- YES, absolutely the programs will increase your strength and make you more efficient as an endurance athlete PLUS less likely to get injured and more likely to get and keep a fit female physique(especially if you have not done anything like the programs in the book). So go ahead and use the programs. When training for an event I always keep 2 days minimum of strength training as a priority in my program. Just use the strength training part and don't worry about the metabolic workouts because your cardio will be your endurance workouts.
As far as food- Yes use the principles in The Female Body Breakthrough. They will work to fuel your body and EVERYTHING I talk about in the book will only help your performance as an endurance athlete. I follow everything in the book when I am training for an endurance event.
Something to think about- I have been a Figure competitor and have lifted weights and my fit female body looks and feels a certain way. If you are an endurance athlete and just want to gain some strength and tone and look more like a fit female on the spectrum this program will get you there- does that make sense? We each have a different fit female body and as an endurance athlete you will look closer to or be at your fit female body by adding in the concepts in the book even if you are still training for endurance.

Once I read the book, I hope to implement as much of this program into my fitness routine as possible over the next few months. Whether that forces me to reconsider what races I am doing this year or not, I don't know. I just know I have a stronger desire to get back in better shape so that in 2011 I will be ready to do another Ironman, fitter and stronger, and hopefully leading to a faster finish and not having to make it a necessity to look for an "easy" race.