Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out on the down low

I've had some pretty incredible New's Years Eves. I've gotten in 'trouble' in more than one foreign country. I've been lost and wasn't sure I would be found. I've been on large yachts sipping champagne and watching fireworks. I've started 5k's at the ball drop and I kissed a girl I'd never met before. 

I've woke up on January 1 of whatever year and been in the best shape of my life or just in shape. I suppose more than a few, pretty out of shape as well. Up, down, turned around, in the whole scheme from what I remember, its been a pretty wild  ride. 

This weekend, Lord I remember how much fun it was to have a major holiday like this on a weekend, is very low key. We've passed on the parties, we've closed the house down for the year as it were. Mistress, for those that do not know that is my wife's non de guerre, is still recovering from a very invasive shoulder surgery the day before Christmas and still pretty wiped out. Not being used to the drugs they gave her during and after it's been a scary detox. Bed rest and quiet are the top prescriptions. 

The timing is right for this low key New Years. My 2011 was full of excitement; marathons, ironman, obstacle course racing. My first 1st Place finish ever in a race. Most importantly the workouts and friendships I made along the way. I would be remiss if I didn't say it sadly includes the loss of more than a few good friends to causes noble and not. Missed the same nevertheless. 

I'll miss 2011, all things considered I grew as a husband, a father and an athlete, which made me, I think, a better man. I am not the same person I was when the year started. I can't wait to see what kind of person I'll be a year from now. 

Don't survive. Thrive. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

simplified nutrition

I am often asked to define my 'diet' or the way that eat. Do I do The Zone, Atkins, Paleo, Mediterranean, Eye Color, Blood Type, on and on I could go. And my response is rather uninspiring. I don't normally do or recommend exclusionary diets, as in almost every case they result in cheating and rebound weight gain. 

Instead I eat just about everything, in moderation, and of course I have some loose parameters to keep myself on track. The main rule of thumb is that the foods I eat individually have five or less ingredients, not including the ingredients that follow the caveat, "Contains less than 2%...". Following this rule of thumb means for example I am picky about the crackers I eat but I still eat them; choosing Triskets (3 ingredients) over Wheat Thins (11 ingredients). In discussing a combination of foods in a meal such as an omelet, each ingredient would comply with the 5 or rule while there may be more than five ingredients in the overall dish. 

Look, this isn't some peer reviewed, zero defect program. There are lots of poor food choices that can be made with items that have less than five ingredients; canned whipped cream has less than five ingredients, some fruit juices have less than five ingredients because there really isn’t fruit juice in it but a combination of chemicals that create that flavor.

When I come off a training or nutrition layoff, when I need to reset my mind and habits back into a proper lifestyle of eating, I go a little more extreme for a short period of time. Think days not weeks. Eating will be as bland as I can get it, eschewing condiments or extra spices, I get as close to natural or fresh and as clean as I can get to force effect of action.  As I have been doing this for years, I can re-establish my patterns again quite quickly.
Not to deny myself and create a binge situation, I have two or three cheat meals per week. One is family based, one is personal based. My family includes children whose routine is pizza and DVD night every Friday. I cherish this time as a father because I know far too well how quickly sleepovers and social engagements will derail these family moments. So if it makes my kids happy to see me eat pizza with them on the floor, I will do it. Every time. And then one personal cheat meal for me each week. This covers a moment of weakness, an unplanned meet up with a friend, and things of that nature.

I could follow a book diet or exclusionary program and I have. I know I don’t like to be denied food options and I know I need to recognize what it is I am eating, If my body is telling me I need salt, I want to be able to go for some crackers but also want to recognize a good choice over a poor one.

My program forces me to eat more of the things I don’t normally choose like fruits and be picky about the things I would like to eat like bread. It almost totally negates junk food as very few candies and sweets are fewer than five ingredients.

I stay compliant; I have an unlimited opportunity to create meals when I can’t control the situation outside my own kitchen. I have flexibility. I don’t feel the need to cheat or lie to myself about what I want and what I can eat. Its not for everyone.

It’s not enough to exist. I am going to live.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beginning next Monday

The problem with the title of this post is that 'Next Monday' is always the next Monday. And not tomorrow.And I am looking forward to it. For the last several days I have taken a micro vacation from training, which is odd since my real vacations usually involve racing or training or adventuring. Nevertheless, for the last week I have lived on the other side of fitness, otherwise known as just like 80% of the American population. 

I have eaten anything I wanted in the quantity's I've wanted. I have cracked beers at 10am and stronger cocktails in the hot tub starting at noon. Ate way more movie popcorn in one sitting than I should have. Devoured handfuls of peanut M&M's at a time. I did have some blackberries the other day, sandwiched between sponge cake and whip cream. I am sugared, boozed and fooded out. Today is the last hoorah. I have lived with Common Man Syndrome, (the title of my former long running website). Yet those that read that (ahem) amazing website, whose entries have been transferred to this one, you know I am not the Common Man. I am the UNcommon man. 

So, next Monday really is the start of my next periodization phase. My nutrition will for a short period be extremely tight to reset my habits, get some quick results to counter my excess and get my mind reprogrammed to start thinking right again. When you eat clean you really don't need to take pills or buy programs to detox. Your body will do it naturally. So I expect some radical GI issues next week. It won't be as bad as having the sugar gut I have today or the hangover feeling most people will have the morning after a Christmas party. 

My morning rituals will have new stretches and workout routines.My normal workout program is still a great rotation of power, agility and endurance so not much needs to be changed on that front. I will start adding more planned cardio at the end of the day, to get back to my combat weight more quickly. It will be good active rest as well. 

My one weakness in the last phase of training was supplementation. I cramped too much when it counted.  This is something I will address this phase with better flexibility but also introducing something to help reduce lactic acid build up, increase oxygen uptake at the cellular level and delay muscle fatigue. I'm looking at changing my multi-vitamin, and adding glutamine and BCAA's back into my diet. I'll also look at some performance products that friends have really felt helped them, like Sport Legs and Recovery e-21. This can be a longer term trial period than my next 90 day training and racing season but anything that works in the winter will work in the summer and as 2012 progresses so will the difficulties of my racing. 

Let it Monday. 

Its not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter season racing, the second half

The first half of my winter racing season was to test my body's ability to physically recover from repetitive intense racing. The second half, beginning in January will test my ability to suffer mentally and physically over longer periods of time. 

My schedule as it stands:

Tough Mudder, Arizona on January 14. 
Super Spartan, Southern California on January 28.
Super Spartan, Arizona on February 11.
Goruck Challenge, Phoenix on February 18
Super Spartan, Miami on February 25. 

These challenges are uniquely dependent on philosophy, location, weather, course terrain and in the case of Goruck, personal preference of the cadre running the class. It will combine intense running with ballistic movements to navigate obstacles and prolonged physical and mental stressing to maintain certain exertions as long as possible.  

As someone who doesn't normally think about age but exertion, I am finally starting to come to terms with my own abilities. I can and will always improve, but I realize I am moving farther away from when I could have learned proper technique and used it for many decades instead of just a couple. I am living myself out of the most competitive age groups, rather than looking forward to entering them. I realize I can still compete and in fact beat a high percentage of people regardless of their age, but I can't also dismiss that my first marathon was in 1992. 

I get so excited looking at my entire winter racing season, what has occurred and what is to come. I am learning it is sometimes best to train smarter not harder. Something I have not historically been good at. I am trying to comfortable in my ability and recognize the glory in the improving and doing, and not comparing myself to athletes half my age. 

It's not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mid season break

Last Saturday I ran two races in one day, a 5k and 12k, different city's, different courses. It was a good mid season finale to my winter racing season that began 7 races and 5 weeks earlier. For this first half I pushed my recovery phase by doing one hard race at least every week and in some instances raced twice in a day or on consecutive days. 

This week did not begin with any intention of letting up the training cycle. Funny how things work out for the best, if you just get out of the way and let things unfold. After a few days of active stretching and limbering, by Monday I was still not physically or mentally prepared to hit my training hard again. It took me two more days of internal struggle to just call the whole week a recovery, put my feet up and pull out the cheat food. 

This wasn't an easy decision. I had momentum on my side. I am in two social media groups that required a certain amount of activity or specific exercises every day for the month. To take this whole week off would essentially remove myself from these friendly challenges. I was reviewing endless photos and video of my racing the last few weeks and created a specific plan to address what I considered weaknesses needing my attention. To decide to step back from activity and acknowledge that with even a week off I would gain some off season weight back, was not something I wanted to relinquish. 

The timing however could not be ignored. A window of opportunity to step back from the edge instead of balancing on it. A chance to fully recharge and kick off the last half of my season completely 100%

Its not enough to exist. I am going to live. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Race Report: Sally Meyerhoff 5k-inaugural

I had several friends come from out of town to participate in Ironman Arizona. While walking around the expo area and observing people riding and running the course, I was asked many times, "What's with all the guys wearing pink knee high socks?" 

Like any big city it's cultures are sometimes defined by its localized tragedies. In our case, we had a fast rising star in endurance sports, a rarity to be sure, a female to boot, whose life was cut short in a cycling accident. Her name was Sally Meyerhoff. For those that saw photos of Sally or saw her in action, or knew her as a person, you were affect first by  her penchant for wearing bright pink accessories and second an infectious positive attitude. You could not help but like her. 

After her passing, family members and closest friends created a foundation to celebrate her life and create the opportunity to help young women achieve in athletics. Immediately local, national and international endurance superstars agreed to help. Along with a 5k to be run later in the year, it was announced that to support the memory of Sally buy her trademark pink compression socks at a local vendor or buy a pink bracelet sold by the foundation and wear it proudly. Thus in Phoenix, pink became the new LiveStong yellow bracelet. 

I am friends with the face of the Sally foundation, Steve Rink, who was Sally's mentor and close personal friend. We communicated many times while he created the run event. He expected 400 people to attend. He wanted 500 which would be an amazing attendance for any inaugural 5k. As that goal was expressed there came an outpouring of support from Sally's friends from around the world. There started to become an amazing swag bag for the first 500, which I was, and for the award winners, which I was not. As I stood in the start chute race morning, I was surrounded by over 1,000 people. Two times a amazing attendance. 

The run itself was very fast, you could not help but run fast. The sun barely peaking over the range to the east. Some of the fastest runners in the country coming to pay respects for a woman who accomplished much but had so much more to do and give. 

I ran so fast I was immediately torn from my group of personal friends and was sucked into a great draft created by amazingly fleet people.  I ran as fast as I could I think simply because sometimes to run fast with reckless abandon reminds you of what living is all about. So I ran, faster than I expected, faster than I wanted, but I did not stop when it hurt. I stayed in the moment and enjoyed a blessedly beautiful morning running with people like me who just wanted to feel alive and keep the pink torch burning for a flame that burned out much too quickly. Instead of one bright pink flame representing Phoenix, there  is now Phoenix representing one bright pink flame, thousands of times over.