Monday, December 31, 2012

Healthy 2013!

If one of your resolutions for 2013 is in any way associated with losing weight, getting into better shape, or just becoming healthier, I've got some brief advice – take it or leave it, as I’m by no means an expert…

Put a premium on what you eat over working out. 

Notice I said what you eat as opposed to how much you eat.  Calories are a meaningless metric when it comes to losing or gaining weight.  What are more important are the types of foods you ingest and how they direct your metabolism (burn fat, or accumulate fat).  As long as you’re eating the right foods, eat until you’re satiated.  That’s it.

Now, let me be very clear:  I’m not saying don’t work out.  I don’t think the guy who is an obsessive triathlete and marathoner could ever in a million years say that with a straight face.  All I’m saying is that if the very rare [probably non-existent] situation presented itself where you had to choose between eating healthy and exercising, I’d go with eating healthy 100 times out of 100. 

Many folks will get back into the gym on January 1st with a goal in mind to lose weight.  Many of those same people won’t make adjustments to their eating habits and will see zero – not minimal, not a little bit – but zero progress.  Too many people at this day in age think they can eat whatever they want and then hop on the elliptical for 1hr and ‘burn it off.’  The fact is that it’s just not true.  There’s so much truth to the old adage of that “We are what we eat.”

Here’s to a Happy and Healthy 2013!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Third time not a charm

My attempts to qualify for Boston by running 26.2mi in 3:04:59:

1.       Chicago Marathon – October 9, 2011:  3:10:52

The themeExcitement and pride.  “It felt great to fail” as you may recall.  I didn’t hit my goal, but I PR’d by a whopping 20min.  I had overcome some anxiety and absolutely loved running in Downtown Chicago.

2.       Chicago Marathon – October 11, 2012:  3:10:25

The theme: Disappointment, but more than that, anger.  One year later everything was just right.  I was in better shape, more confident, more experienced and the weather was perfect.  I came away from this race pissed off and ready to avenge my shortcoming on my home court in Dallas.

3.       Dallas Marathon – December 9, 2012: Did Not Finish

The themeToo much too soon.  With the Chicago Marathon a mere two months prior, I may have overextended myself to try and BQ here.

After debriefing with my coach we determined that I wasn't tapered/recovered enough for the race.  Granted I knew from the get-go I was rolling the dice on Dallas.  It often takes weeks to fully recover from a marathon.

As soon as I started running I felt that something was off.  My HR was way higher than it should have been given my pace and previous runs (symptom of not being fully recovered).  I ignored it and stuck to the plan.  Through mile 14 I was feeling positive, and then I took a turn into the wind at White Rock Lake.  At this point my legs started talking to me.  Talking soon became yelling, and before I knew it I had fallen victim to 'run-walk, run-walk.'  I gutted it out to 19 and then after doing several cost-benefit analyses determined it wasn't my day.  I jogged to 21, saw my family, and pulled the rip chord.  No sense in struggling through 5 miles to get a medal.  I've done the completions; this was Boston or bust.

Someone said to me after the race, "It's a live and learn sport."  So true.  Amazing how much you learn about endurance sports and more importantly yourself through the training and then the racing.  It also occurred to me exactly what it is that I'm trying to do.  Trying to BQ isn't like taking the GMAT.  If you get a lousy score you can't just re-schedule and try again the following weekend.  It's not like golf or tennis, a coach can't tweak your back-swing or suggest a different follow-through that you can implement and try immediately.  This takes time, and it takes a ton out of you.  If I could sign up for another marathon tomorrow and try again I would... or would I?

I also realized through all of this that will power is a muscle.  And like every muscle that you utilize, you also have to rest it.  I had been so laser-focused on Chicago for months, and then immediately went back into focusing on Dallas.  Recovery is not only essential for the muscles to come back stronger, but for the mind as well.  Which is exactly what I'll do through the Holidays.  Back at it in 2013.  Until then...

Thanks for all the support, I'm incredibly blessed.  Jessie, Mom, Dad, Kylie, Sadie, Small Group, Family, Friends, Coach Mike, Coach David, SWA, etc.  God is good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Whole30

31 days ago Jessie and I started a diet called the Whole30.  The reason for doing it was more or a less a question of “Why not?”  Why not see how the body responds when you eat a ‘clean’ diet?  Why not give something a shot that is grounded by scientific research?  Why not try something that promises good outcomes?  It’s only 30 days.  Why not?  So we did it...


Today is Day #30, the official mark of the end of a successful program.  I'm proud to report that there was no cheating whatsoever.  I haven't had a grain in over a month.  No cream in my coffee, no popcorn at the movies and no beer at happy hour.  As preached by the crew over at Whole9, the idea is to be all-in.  No half-ass'ing the program.  Do it, but do it right, and then yield results.

First, what is the “Whole30?”

The shortest answer:  Paleo

The longer answer:  A way of eating that strips out grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol and anything with added sugar/artificial sweetener.  It stresses the importance of high-quality proteins and fats.  The source of everything is critical: always grass-fed beef, pasture-raised meat/eggs and tons of plants (vegetables and fruit).  30 refers to the amount of days the program challenges you to make it in order to see any substantial difference.

So, did it make a difference?

Yes. 100%.  My energy levels have sky-rocketed, I no longer hit any sort of afternoon slump.  I’m happier.  I’m falling asleep faster and waking up feeling better.  My allergy symptoms are completely gone.  I’m recovering faster from my workouts.  I no longer crave unhealthy garbage.  I burn more fat for fuel as opposed to relying on carbohydrates.  And, despite my best efforts, I lost 10lbs.

The word “diet” has many negative connotations, one of which being that they typically involve daily calorie-restriction.  This diet did not.  As a matter of fact, I ate more calories on average during the last 30 days than I had prior to starting the program.  For most of my breakfasts, as an example, I would consume around 1,000 calories, 60% of them from fat (raw, canned coconut milk is delicious)!

(**Note:  I could write so much more on the concept of fat efficiency, the damaging effects of grains, and a lot more of the science, but I’ll save that for another post in the near future.  In the meantime, check out the Whole9 website and poke around – they've got a ton of great reads and valuable resources.)

Observations/Lessons Learned:

  • It wasn't easy, but it got easier.  The first week was miserable as my body adapted to less sugar and began the switch over from a metabolism that relied heavily on carbohydrates, to one that tapped into fat as a fuel source.  I was cranky, tired, my stomach felt jacked up... things just weren't good.  And then something happened: I started feeling better.  Not just better compared to the first week, but better than I had felt in months.
  • Hardest part: planning/cooking.  Take a moment and think about how much of the food you eat on a daily basis consists of grains (bread, crackers, cereal, oatmeal, etc.).  Now, imagine taking that out.  Tough, ey?  It took a lot of planning and preparation to make it through, but it got easier as time went on. (Props to Chef Jessie, without her, I would have been eating eggs for breakfast, lunch and dinner)
  • Eating Whole30-approved is by far a healthier way of living.  The proof is in the paleo-pudding. 
  • Eating Whole30-approved is not sustainable for athletes involved in high intensity exercise/fitness.  I found myself lagging at certain points on some days because of hard (high heart rate) workouts.  I'm sure it's possible to adapt entirely to rely on carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables to fuel high-intensive workouts, but at this point, I'm not there yet.  If my workouts were less intense and more endurance-focused, Whole30-eating would be perfect.
The bottom line is that I absolutely recommend this.  It's amazing how fast the 30 days went by and how much benefit I got from doing it.  It's a measly 4 weeks out of your life.  And in all seriousness, it's changed the way I look at food.  I'm not saying I'll never have bread again, won't drink some beers or indulge in some desserts, but I will undoubtedly be more aware of what I'm putting in my body (the quantity doesn't matter as much when it's the right stuff!).

There's never a perfect time to start.  There will always be a dinner that comes up, a party, happy hour, occasion, whatever.  I'll be the first to raise my hand and say it would have been nice to have a couple of cheat-snacks at the Halloween parties I attended, or shared some beverages with pledge brothers I hadn't seen in a while at SMU Homecoming.  So that's why you pick a day on your calendar, and you go.  Give it a whirl.  See what it's like to eat clean, give your body a metabolic reset, repair the lining in your stomach, and all the other benefits you can get from doing this.  Or if none of those reasons are enticing, perhaps your reason should be the same as mine and Jessie's:  "Why not?"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Closure on Chicago

One week ago today I was still in Downtown Chicago, sipping on some coffee and eating a [guilt-free] donut with my mom and Jessie at our hotel.  I was re-hashing the race over and over again on what went wrong.  How on earth, I thought, did this happen again?  You see in 2011 I had the same goal at Chicago: Qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:04:59 (7:03/mile pace).  In 2011 I came up short, but was pleased with the result.  This year yielded the same result, but I was far from pleased.  In fact, I was pissed off.

One year is a long time in the world of training.  One year gives you more experience and room to grow as an athlete.  The fact is that I was better prepared for the 2012 Chicago Marathon than I was for the 2011 Chicago Marathon.  I was stronger, faster, and more experienced, not to mention, the weather was about 30 degrees cooler outside.  Everything was in my favor, yet I posted an almost identical time compared to the year prior.

Similarly to last year, the wheels came off at mile 23.  Up until that point I was on track, holding at about a 6:50/mi pace, running with the 3:00 marathon pace group.  I saw my family right about mile 23 and gave them a thumbs up.  I had been mentally battling for the last 5K but at that point I thought I could gut it out to the finish.  6:50’s gave me a buffer zone, so slightly slowing wasn't a big deal.  About 800m after the thumbs up my body said “You're done.”  I became disoriented, slightly dizzy and my legs felt like someone had beaten them with a baseball bat.  The pain isn't sharp, but incredibly dull and achy (magnified to the extreme).  That was it.

See the downfall?

After post-race debriefs galore and analyzing the hell out of my performance, it was determined that two main factors were at play in my failed attempt to BQ.  The first was my nutrition, and probably accounted for 80% of the crash.  Pre-race (the morning of and the day before) fueling was sub-par at best, and fueling during the race was only slightly better.  When I finished the race I was dizzy and "out of it."  Felt like my eyes were looking in two different directions.  Two Sierra Mists and a couple of chocolate chip cookies later, and I could have gone out and ran more.  Lesson learned.  The second was mental.  It's very rare you see an athlete push beyond their physical capacity.  The logical portion of your brain usually stops you before any real damage can be done.  I was no where near any serious medical trouble, yet my brain pulled the rip chord at 23.5.  This is something I can work on, this idea of mental toughness and pushing past pain.

All in all, I was dumbfounded.  As I jogged to the finish line I couldn't help but almost shrug my shoulders at the running gods: "What just happened?  I'm at a loss for words here."  But I know what happened.  And I know what to do in order to fix it.  Adjust, press on.

So now what?  I'll spare you the details of my decision-making process and cut to the chase.  On December 9th I'm going to make my third attempt at qualifying for Boston a charm, and what not a better place than my own backyard?  How nice it will be to run the same course that many I know will be running that same day.  How poetic, too, that this was my first-ever endurance race.

Dallas Marathon:  I'm coming for you.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My new place

My generation has been referred to as a lot of things, one of which are “boomerangs.”  We graduated high school, left home for college, and then returned before moving out again to settle into the real world.  I was what you could possibly call a “double-boomerang.”  Here’s what I mean: <inhale> I graduated high school, went to SMU, returned home to save money while working, moved out to an apartment, after two years was hired at Southwest Airlines, decided I wanted to move closer to work, moved home until I found a place, found a place, and then moved back out <exhale>.

I consider myself to be extremely lucky that (a) my parents were nice enough to let me move back home not once, but twice (rent-free nonetheless) and (b) my parents are cool as hell.  Besides some occasional rush hour traffic commuting to and from work, I thoroughly enjoyed living at home.

A little over two weeks ago I completed my journey as a “double-boomerang”: moving out of my parents’ house for what is likely the last time.  Bittersweet feelings, I’d say, as I love seeing my family and I also love my home.  But not much will change; we’ll just have more options of places to hang out.

My new condo is actually owned by my parents.  They’ve had it for almost thirty years and lived in it for two years prior to getting married.  So not only is the condo fantastic to live in, it’s got incredible sentimental value.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about the condo, as my parents reminisce on the memories (good and bad!).  

My parents and me on my move-in day.
Life has a funny way of balancing itself out.  My move-in date was actually my parents' 28th year wedding anniversary.  Pretty coincidental, but even more poetic.

My Dad in the middle, with my Mom's friends on the day of their wedding shower in front of the condo. 

My Mom in the middle.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Race Week

About one year ago I finished my first Ironman 70.3.  Self-coached and new to the sport, I approached the race with zero expectations.  Because of this, my anxiety was very low (about as low as it can be when you’re about to do a 70.3 mile race) if not non-existent.

This year is different.  For the past year I’ve been involved with a triathlon group that trains together, I’ve been coached and have executed training completely different.  I’ve operated under the ‘less is more’ strategy that incorporates constant recovery, I’ve done weights (yes, runners and cyclists do weights), I’ve gotten massages, and have put much more emphasis on stretching and flexibility.  Not to mention, I’ve paid a lot closer attention to nutrition.  This year I’m ten times more prepared than I was last year, but ironically my anxiety is through the roof!

Some of my fellow triathlete friends were joking the other day regarding the week leading up to a race.  The days prior to the event can really mess with your mind and body, as both have been used to a certain lifestyle/load for several months.  Imagine abruptly taking crack away from an addict.  So far I’ve felt a little on edge, slightly irritable, I’ve got ‘phantom’ pains that are appearing out of nowhere, I’m tired and just ‘off.’

Look for a post-race follow-up blog a few days after this Sunday, April 22, 2012 as I travel to New Orleans to do my second Ironman 70.3.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beeps, rings and dings

The other day it occurred to me how often I hear an alarm, a buzz, a ding or a ring.  I must have been irritated already, because I started noticing every single sort of beep or alert that happened.  I started taking an OCD-like inventory of how many times it happens in a day.

I start a typical day with an alarm waking me up.  Depending on how tired I am, I may snooze it so it re-‘alarms’ me.  Shortly after I’m awake is usually a calendar reminder of an appointment or meeting I have that’s coming up.  Several beeps go off when the coffee is done.  More go off if I make toast in a toaster oven.  Get in my car, begin driving when a ‘ding’ alerts me to buckle-up.   Luckily my car isn’t as new or fancy as others and doesn’t have a sensor that triggers an alarm that sounds as I’m backing up.  Another ‘ding’ comes as a low-fuel notification.  OK, time to stop for gas.  Ever notice how many ‘beeps’ there are when you fill up at a pump?  From my experience Chevron is the absolute worst.  Not sure what all of the beeps mean, but what I am sure of is that there are at least three of them throughout the fill-up.  I leave my keys in the ignition but the engine is turned off, so when I open my car to get back in I’m alerted of the key-in-ignition-situation.  Thanks for that.  Park the car, walk up to my office building door, ‘beep’ goes the ID badge swipe, ‘ding’ goes the elevator (two, sometimes three times).

Before I’ve even sat down at my desk I’ve lost count of the different alerts and associated noises.  And have forgotten I’m even counting.

We’ve gotten so good at tuning things out.  News flash tickers at the bottom of screens are normal now.  Throughout the day we get e-mail alerts (business + personal), text messages and appointment reminders.  When someone mentions me on ‘Twitter’ I get an alert from the iPhone application, an e-mail from Twitter to my personal account and sometimes it will pop-up on my computer screen if I have Tweet Deck running in the background.  (OK, so that one is entirely my fault, I’ve just been too lazy to change the settings.) 

Reminders and alerts are everywhere and all the time.  Without them, I’d be screwed and forget a good chunk of my to-do’s.  But often times I find myself needing a break from the constant ‘in-your-face’ness of them.  Isn’t it always a semi-relief when your phone dies?  C’mon, admit it.

I’ll never forget a coworker of mine at my former employer asking me to remind him to remind our manager of something.  That meant I had to write a reminder for myself to set an alarm so that I could remember to remind my coworker to remind my boss.  Lost?  So was I.