Friday, October 31, 2014

Navigating the Halloween Minefield

Halloween opens a scary season for this dieter.  In a short two months we’ll go from today’s sweets holiday, to the overeating of Thanksgiving, to the combination blowout of sweets and overeating on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Then, a week later, to make sure everyone’s at their years heaviest—just in time for resolutions—we eat for New Year’s.

Well, no more for this new man!  With a vein of new confidence gained by finally getting under 300lbs and especially by completing the half marathon (something that many much fitter people haven’t done!), and readied by the hard physical work done with Laurie and steadied by the mental bolstering of Mindy, I don’t want any backsliding into old habits or to even tarry on the trip towards my goal.
Tah-Dah!  This ain't the emblem of the Fatmobile!
Wanting to finish the holiday season lighter than when I entered it, I was tempted to try a big goal: No sweets for a hundred days!  But I know myself, and I just know that when I meet my first challenge, say a delectable caramel-ly treat this Halloween, I would end up delusionally reasoning and bargain: 3 days in, 97 to go, I’ll just submit to temptation and start over again.  By some sort of magic I’ll be strong enough to resist the sweet in another 3 day’s time. 

Instead I recognize that I am a food addict that nearly bargained himself to an early, spoon-dug food/fat grave, and that I’m strong enough to make it through these challenging days if I focus and fight these pathological urges.  To use a recovering addiction maxim, you’ve got to take it one day at a time, and so my goal is to get through tonight and tomorrow without eating Halloween candy.  Then my goal will be to not eat any of the liquidated remainder candy from the grocery that inevitably makes its way into the house. 

The days of successful goals will add up and I’ll finish the 100 days in the new year much lighter and much happier for having proved my new determined will.  That’s the plan, let’s hope all goes well.  Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Crossing a Reassuring Threshold

My weight loss progression has yielded me some bad news and some wonderful news this week.  The bad is that I am still considered obese by my body-mass index.  But for the first time since junior high school, I am no longer morbidly obese!

Yes, I feel truly blessed to be back  on the healthy side of that great health risk divide—with its high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, joint disease, esophageal reflux, incontinence, and reduced life expectancy that one risks.

As I write down that depressing list of debilitating conditions, I can’t claim to have returned from my time in the realm of the morbidly obese undamaged, but my blood pressure, sleep apnea, my joints and acid reflux are all being ameliorated with my diet and exercise.

At my heaviest, my BMI was almost 65; today, the first day my BMI has been under 40 in well over a decade, I can see great progress made along the path to my goal.  I’m so excited!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Slow and Steady: The Loveland Half Marathon

It was night-dark as I made my way down the hill to Loveland, and dark still as Laurie and I waited in line to use the portapotties.  Only right before the start of the Loveland Half Marathon did the sun peek past the horizon and shed light on the beginning of a beautiful day.

We watched from the side as the runners assembled behind the timing-mat starting line, listening to race instructions as my race partner and I readied our gear waiting for the imminent opening signal.  I zipped my new running jacket to my chin to fight the morning’s cool chill, adjusted the straps of my water backpack, made sure my cell phone and headphones were at hand in my pocket.  I gave Laurie my GPS watch to wear, and she handed back my sports jelly beans I’d given her to safeguard from an incorrigible overeater.  As the call to GO! was given and the runners started their race, we were as ready as we were going to be.  Swinging behind the assembled body, we walked across the starting line and began my first half marathon.

The early part of the course quickly routed us out of downtown Loveland, through side streets and over a series of rolling hills.  Suburban throughways shortly became winding rural roads, and we found ourselves leaf peeping the beautiful autumn landscapes, framed against the Little Miami River, on our brisk walk.  We developed a rhythm that became tranquil, and it was only an incongruent clatter that made me look back and see that the timing chip I’d zip-tied to my left shoe—or tried to—had fallen off.  A quick reaction and a back track of a few feet saved me $10!

A frantic fussing with the water valve and then some prodding and squeezing of the bladder told me that my water backpack wasn’t going to work.  It was too complicated to figure out en route, too expensive to ditch on the side of the road, so I resolved to just heft the 4lbs that wouldn’t get lighter with each sip or ever-furthering distance.  Four pounds on my frame isn’t near the burden as it would be on yours! I tried to assure Laurie and reassure myself.

The prospect of imbibing water returned mixed messages from my body:  my dry mouth wanted as much as possible with my throat seconding; my over-inundated bladder cried out, no water, no more!  My brain played arbiter—as much water as possible, a bathroom as soon as you can!  I was double fisting cups coming out of every water station, then turning back to ask the high school running team volunteers where the nearest bathroom was.  Nobody knew!

By this time Laurie had to go too, and introduced the idea of weeing in the woods.  Then we recognized from our bike rides on the Little Miami Trail that the course was getting closer to the river and we were going to be coming to a trailside park—bathrooms ahead!  We steeled our bladder-holding determinations and quickened our gait before having a blissfully-brief respite of relief in the restroom shelter.  It was a whole new race once we commenced, one where taking water and making water taxed us not at all.

As we continued, we found ourselves mid-way through the fifth mile, beginning a loop on the Trail that would send us two miles down and then over six miles back, straight through to Loveland.  As we made our way, we saw the runners—some looking miserable, some looking like they were having a world of fun—on their return.  Laurie started me on some sports jelly beans, eager to anticipate the drop in energy rather than having to compensate for it.

Volunteer groups of young, cute cheerleaders called out encouragements, telling us “You’re beautiful!”  which I, though I didn’t feel it, derived some energy from as my legs were starting to get tired.  I would switch to a jog-at-walking-speed to hit less tired muscles, always conscience of telling Laurie beforehand, so she wouldn’t increase speeds and leave me in the fallen autumn leaves! 

After making the turn, I appreciated that the Little Miami Bike Trail was so flat, that it was placed at the end of the course.  There wasn’t as many people heading down the loop when we were coming back, but it seemed like Laurie and I were catching and passing a lot of people, while not really being passed.  Under tree cover, my GPS seemed to be losing distance, the first time that’d happened.  And at what a time!

But as I started to get tired, and my watch was underestimating our distance covered by a couple of miles and the mile markers seemed to lie further and further apart, it was wonderful to have Laurie there to keep me focused on the race.  Making conversation, asking me how I was feeling, instructing me to keep my form, feeding me and giving me one of her two running bottle when I was thirsty, Laurie—who didn’t break a sweat, who felt fine today—helped me finish the race.

At the point when a lady volunteer declared that we had just one mile to go, I felt my legs tightening up.  I went into my jog for about a quarter of a mile, got tired and slowed back into a walk.  I felt the walking gait in my hips and it hurt more than my tired jog, so I returned to the jog.  Not too fast, Laurie shouted, I don’t want you to fizzle at the finish!  She told me to hold back until we crossed a familiar bridge close to the finish line.  Reined in, my adrenaline was going as I strode off the bridge, and we took off.  I remember how strong I felt, how determined I was, pumping not only my arms but turning my shoulders, and how high my knees were. 

In my longest race to-date, it was my best finish line crossing!  Laurie and I told people we wanted to best 3:30, but after training well we had a secret goal between just us of 3:20.  Turns out Laurie had a secret, secret goal she kept from me of 3:15.  Our official time—with a bathroom break—was 3:01:16!  I was so elated I didn’t even notice that my nipples were bleeding in our post-race photos (Oh hell, oh well!  Chaffed nipples is not the worst thing race mishap that can occur ***Don’t Google Image Search “Runner’s diarrhea”*** :-P)

I would never have believed that I could complete a half marathon.  When my last and longest race was a 5K, I can’t believe that in such a short period of time I was able to complete a 5K plus 10 miles!  I’m so happy, so wanting to keep the momentum going that I’m soliciting ideas of what to do next!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Loveland Half Marathon Packet

The Loveland Half Marathon is what the event organizer, Tucson Racing, calls “no frills racing,” by which they mean that there isn’t the expo, swag, or after race snacks other races feature.  By cutting the fat, they offer an entry fee of almost $50 less than other half marathons, without forgoing volunteer support, aid and refreshment stations, bathrooms, t-shirts, and finisher medals that makes a race safe, enjoyable, and memorable.

While the race packet is simple, it certainly isn’t skimpy in quality.  It includes a racing chip that will be zip-tied to my left shoe, a racing bib that for a reason I’d be interested to know features Tucson Racing’s sister race, the Undead 5K (Leeway is given in no frills racing!), and a high quality technical t-shirt.  Marking our entry into the chilly autumn season, it is the first long sleeve race shirt I’ve gotten. 

As I prepare for my first half marathon tomorrow, I can appreciate the lack of distractions that come with no frills.  The thrills come in the morning, as Laurie and I walk our way to my very first, but certainly not last, half marathon finish!  Here we come!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Look Mom, No Blisters!

Yesterday, Laurie and I put in our final long walk before the Loveland Half-Marathon on Sunday.  Part of what makes Laurie fun and interesting is the fact that she never seems to repeat herself, so I was pleased she suggested we walk in downtown Loveland itself, specifically hitting the early hill that begin an otherwise level course. 

It was raining lightly as we readied ourselves—pouring water into running bottles, lathering up on Glide, figuring out path of the race—but as there’s no time like the present, no guarantee that it wouldn’t rain Sunday, and with a need to train, we donned water-proof jackets and headed towards the hill.

Joseph—my mentor, my expert, my friend—read that I was getting blisters and foot tenderness after walking and knew exactly what the problem was—‘twas my socks!  I started the year coming to the Club in all-cotton, casual socks.  They would invariable turn into soggy messes that helped none and hurt a lot.  Then at March’s Heart Mini expo Joseph treated me to an excellent pair of Adidas, top-of-the-line Superfeet inserts, and a pair of deceptively technical running socks.  This kit helped a 65lbs stouter me finish my first 5K without any foot troubles.

Well, I am a newbie and I didn’t quite understand the importance of a high-quality sock, so I bought my athletic socks with value being the chief virtue.  More plainly, I cheaped out!  I’ve learned that when you’re buying things for yourself, don’t cheap out; invest in yourself by purchasing items that will keep you feeling better and last longer.  Joseph reinforced this lesson when he bought me two $12 pairs of running socks.  $12 a pair?!?
The $12 Bargain

As soon as I slid them on, I knew they were well worth the money!  Brilliantly engineered and sowed, my high arch sock has a thick cushioning around the forepads, gets really thin around the arch, and returns to good cushioning on the heel.  They are light, hold tight, and wick moisture away.  I could quickly tell that there was no friction between my sock and foot, and after more than six miles and for the first time on our long walks, my feet hadn’t been rubbed out of sorts.  I will never again take to the road without taking them!

After we crested the big hill we knew we were ready and it was a fun, brisk walk afterwards.  We went by Loveland High School, and walked well into my home neighborhood of Symmes Township and whole different school district before returning.  Upon seeing the attraction sign, I wanted to walk to the Loveland Castle, which was a fun roadside stop.  But to get there we had to go down the steepest hill this side of the Himalayas, a real hill so steep the natural, gravity induced urge to run down it would have surely resulted in instant injury to my ever-so-challenged joints!  When we returned up the hill, I noted that this was much steeper than when I, as a 400 pounder, had barely ascended Clingmans Dome, and then not without stopping at every bench.  Well past 45 degrees, it makes 5 Seasons’ Hell Hill look like a bit…[Enough.About.THE HILL!!!]

We made it back to Loveland, we were damp but determined, confident for having put in the training.  We’re so ready for Sunday!

A Barbarian at the Gates

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Blood Pressure of My Dreams

Today, for the second time in as many doctor visits, my blood pressure was fantastically low—118/62!

 Just two years ago, I surreally found myself lying in a darkened examination room, doing a quasi-meditation in order to get my blood pressure down enough so that my doctor wouldn't have to put me on blood pressure medicine.  With every teeth cleaning, the dental hygienist would explain how she couldn't work on me until I passed a blood-pressure measurement, and then I’d have to wait alone with my thoughts of embarrassment and loathing, while she tracked down the rarely used over-sized cuff and stethoscope. 

But with diet, exercise, and the help of Five Seasons, this is…All.In.The.Past!  And I’m ecstatic!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Feeling My Way to Wellness

We have working theories, we in the working-out world.  We come across a problem; we postulate its nature and purpose a solution.  Then we experiment and rate the findings.  In this we’re like scientists, only with sexy bodies and personable skills.  Well, this may be where we and I part company, but I hope I’m closing the deficit with my ongoing efforts.

Anyway, to meet the overarching challenge of completing the Loveland Half-Marathon and its 13.1 miles on October 19, Laurie and I have been training so that we (meaning mostly I) don’t end up broken on the side of the race course or hurt thereafter.  Deciding that my feet couldn’t take the stress of a 5K plus 10 miles, we resolved to walk the race.  The first challenge was working up to the great distance.  In succeeding weeks we did 4 miles, 6.5 miles. 8.5 miles and, while Laurie was participating in a triathlon, I did almost 13 miles Saturday.  Though only slightly, my body was generally sore after these walks, but it is a testament to Laurie’s work and expertise that the muscles of my body quickly regenerated and ramp up their ability to meet the escalating workloads.

That is what you might expect in a training regimen.   What I am working through are the problems that cause me to feel sore or low in following days, problems that could otherwise be avoided.  Two marked challenges presented themselves; the first I’ve seemed to have solved, the other is ongoing.

At 6.5 and 8.5 miles, I was moving all my weight around for hours at a time and using a lot of energy.  My activity watch estimated that I was burning more calories during a walk then I was consuming all day, and, predicatively, I felt rather nasty for days following.  Knowing everything I’m doing and listening to my symptoms, both Laurie and Mindy nailed what was at issue: I wasn’t eating enough, particularly while working out.  Laurie, the comparative waif that she is, only needs a few sports jelly beans—which she humorously counts out as if they were of the Jack’s magic bean variety—but I’m two to three times her size and need more.

On Saturday I walked to the grocery store and bought three protein bars which I ate throughout my walk.  It was a good thing I did, because though in total the protein bars had nearly 1,200 calories, I used an estimated 3,326 calories in my workout.  Not refueling during such vigorous exercising is not, I believe merely imprudent, but probably rather unhealthy.  The next day, my energy level remained intact, my spirits at having achieved that length and feeling great, were high.

My second problem is ongoing.  I have been getting blisters on my feet from walking; the same size blisters in the same spots.  I switched to a new pair of shoes, which helped a little.  I tried decreasing the interior area of the shoe by adding another insert on top on that of the shoemaker’s—no effect.  Switching to a mid-sock cut out blistering on my ankles.  Glide body lubricant promises to be the greatest ameliorant.  A little Glide helped a little; lathering it on helped a lot more.  I could feel the pads of my feet sliding in my shoe where they would have been rubbing and it worked for maybe half of Saturday’s walk before I, in hindsight, should have reapplied.

So I’m going to lather and then re-lather on the Glide and if that doesn’t fix it I ask Laurie if a mid-change of socks might help.  But rest assured, we’re going to keep training and keep tweaking until we are ready for the Eighteenth!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Working Through a Low Feeling

I am a recovering hypochondriac; I always think I’m sick.  When I was leading an extremely sedentary lifestyle and eating awfully, I seemed to succumb to every virus and bacterial bug that came my way.  I was constantly nauseated, eating myself sick as often as I could.  Dealing with an ever present malaise made me hypersensitive to how I felt, and I would suss out the very hint of an ailment that may or may not have been the onset of an illness.  And when it wasn’t, I’d pretend to be under the weather because declaring myself sick allowed me to comfortably withdraw from a world I feared.

But throughout this year I have gotten out of my home and into a routine that has served me well.  I have learned that you can feel quite a bit below perfect (whoever feels perfect?) and still make it through a day; that a lot of unnerving symptoms subside once I start my day working out at the Club.  And my resistance, like the muscles of my body, has gotten stronger.  I haven’t had to cancel on Laurie due to illness all year, and I hadn’t exercised feeling sick.  Not until Tuesday.

I went into Laurie’s evening class with a sinus headache through which caffeine couldn’t cut, a sour stomach that, like a volcano, threatening to spew, and blistered feet and tired legs from an 8.5 mile half- marathon training walk the previous afternoon.  With a new resolve—that if sickness hasn’t reduced my faculties, if I don’t need a clear path to the toilet for either imperative, if I’m not uncontrollably spreading contagion and can regularly sanitize my hands—I decided to give it all I had.  A reduced effort yields more than no effort, and working through adversity develops the quality of toughness. 

Tough is an apt word to describe my workout.  Every time I bore down to strained at a weight station, my sinuses would compete with my temples to see who could cause more discomfort.  When I rose to my feet, I would get lightheaded, my eyes saw a flash of bright light.  It was then, hobbling around on sore feet, I thought that I may have bitten off more than I could chew.  Finally I reached a roadblock: the first station that gave pain to my sore right knees—hip extensions on the TRX.

It was at this point that I remembered that this wasn’t a boot camp where you ring the bell when you need to quit; it wasn’t even a boot camp exercise program.  It was a training group that you participated to the furthest extent of your own ability.  I think I subconsciously do things with an eccentric flair in order to get attention.  But when I am feeling good and giving my best Charles Atlas impersonation nobody appreciates me and watches what I do (save a roving Laurie, who is used to me).  So when I am feeling low, it doesn’t matter I substitute in-place an exercise that I can do for one that hurts my knee.  Slowing the pace of my reps and focusing on deep, relaxed breathes helped ease my headache and, without a tortuous pain, I was able to get through the session.

A well-earned night’s rested fully restored me Wednesday morning, and set firm a new lesson to add to my tool bag: Whenever possible, a little effort is more furthering than no effort!

Laurie's Ab Alley, on the Path to Sixpackville