Thinking Out Loud Thursday #2

Thinking-Out-Loud2

After a late start to my first Thinking Out Loud Thursday, and a missed Thursday last week, I’m back with my second Thinking Out Loud Thursday. This links up with Amanda at Running With Spoons.

  • My wife and I recently celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary. We are both amazed that the time has flown by so quickly as it seems like just yesterday that we newlyweds. Of course having three kids aged 19 to 13 should have been a clue that we’ve been together for a while, but it just doesn’t seem like 22 years.
  • Last week was supposed to be race week for me. However I decided early in the week that I would not be running the Army Run Half Marathon. It was the right decision, but it left me feeling a little out of sorts all week. I only ran once, and some of my food choices were questionable, especially on the weekend. I’ve started looking for another fall race that fits my family schedule so that I can possibly get a Half PB. Interestingly, my bib for the Army Run was 4905 — I’m 49 and my last/only half was 5 years ago when I ran the  Army Run in a less than stunning 2:49. After a couple of years of relatively consistent running and learning, I had hoped to PB somewhere below 2:30, but it just wasn’t in the stars. Thankfully Ottawa is a great running city and there are other opportunities.
  • Ringette season is upon us so I am back on the ice as a coach. After a summer of running, my legs feel great and skating is pretty easy, except for some different leg muscles I’m now using.
  • This week I ran with my school’s Cross Country Team.  Last year I had promised to get out with them, but I never made it. It was great to be out with the students and coaches for an easy 5k in the neighborhood. It was especially nice for coaches McColeman and Collins to keep the pace manageable for me and the newest team members (5.2k @ 6:33/km).
  • On the last day of summer, I hit the trail and the road for a stress relieving run. While I was hoping to hit 10k, I wasn’t sure given the limited running I’ve done recently. There was no need to worry however, as I ran a 10K PB in 55:31. My splits were very consistent in the first 5k, but slipped a bit in the second 5. That was fine with me though as it was great to be running. No watch, no stopping, just my phone chirping my split times as I zipped along.

https://www.strava.com/activities/720450656/embed/0245a7a27d341fdb2e013f95f9f00f552420458f

Back to work food temptations!

As often happens when schools come back after the summer break there are treats for staff and students. My school is no different. We provided coffee and muffins for the staff, and our grade 9 students and student leaders were given cheese pizza for lunch.

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Muffins for staff

Even though I have been super careful this summer about what and how much I eat, and I told myself I would resist, the temptation was too great. I had two muffins this morning and a slice of pizza at lunch. And I still had the lunch I brought from home.

A small pile of the Pizza for students

Sure I had breakfast at 6:00 am, so I was hungry by mid morning and I don’t get to have lunch until 12:45, but I brought a healthy lunch with veggies and fruit that could be eaten in one sitting or grazed upon throughout the day. Sure I knew better, and I’ve lost weight through my better eating and exercising. But I AM WEAK! All I can do is remind myself that while a couple of treats is the start of a slippery slope, it is not a food mountain-slide. I just have to be mindful of what I eat, and stay away from temptation.

So with only 77 days to go to Christmas break, every day will be an interesting challenge to keep away from free food and empty calories.

unhealthy-food-meme

Truth!

Early Bird Triathlon Review

A few weeks ago I participated in my first triathlon, the Early Bird Triathlon organized by Somersault Events, a local company whose events “are organized primarily for the recreational enjoyment of participants of all ages and stages.”  This sentence from their mission statement perfectly describes me and my focus as an athlete.  I enter races not for prize money, but for the enjoyment.

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2016 Early Bird Tri & Du Race shirt

In terms of a simple goal for the day, score one for the Early Bird Sprint Tri.  I had a great day, as I usually do at Somersault events.  In an earlier post, “I am a Triathlete!”,  I described my somewhat spotty/sketchy/non-existent training plan for the day.

strava calendar 2016

Not much training done for a late May event. Oops!

With such a weak lead up to the day, I wasn’t really sure how things were going to turn out.  I needn’t have worried.

The night before race day, I organized all of my gear, making sure I had my bag packed with bike shoes, helmet, towels, food, water, and race bib. I made sure the tires had air, and that the bike computer worked. And it was good that I checked both of those things, because they both needed work. The air int he tires wasn’t a big deal, but imagine my surprise at 11 pm to discover my bike computer had stopped working. Fortunately my workbench has a drawer full of mysteries. Imagine Mr. Dressup’s Tickle Trunk and you have a good idea of the remarkable things I have hidden away “just in case”. That’s right, I had the exact right battery. So I got that sorted out and headed off to bed.

Flat SeeHaleRun Tri version

Flat SeeHaleRun

On the day of the race, I was up before the alarm clock, earlier than I usually get up for work. I even woke up before the coffee machine started. Seriously, who gets up on a Saturday before the alarm clock? Okay, maybe I was a little anxious. One of the great things about Somersault events is the number of people you run into there. The events draw all sorts of people to them, from recreational athletes (me!) to elite athletes, and everybody in between. As I was loading my bike into the van my neighbours came out and started loading their car. Of course they were also headed to the race to cheer on family members (including the 72 year old mother) who were going to compete in the Try-a-Tri and the Sprint Tri distances. After the event another neighbour stopped by to say she had seen me finish as her kids were competing in the Kids race. Ottawa is a small town, but we’re pretty active.

Once I arrived at the race, which was centered around the Carleton University campus, I found a parking spot not too far from the setup area. One of the benefits of using Carleton is the abundance of parking, and a good path system for people to travel between the swim area and bike/run transition zone. Because the race is in late May, there is no open water swim; instead the swim is held in the Carleton 50m pool. Of course the downside is that it is 500+ meters between the pool and the transition zone so you have to accept the time loss (if you choose to walk rather than run back to the T-zone).  Once I found a good spot for my bike and gear that provided good landmarks so I would remember where to go, and gave me a good path to the bike and run routes, I went to get marked up. Fortunately, there was space beside my bike for my brother-in-law so when he arrived a few minutes later he was able to set up quickly.

While I had taken part in the pre-race orientation session the evening before during packet pick-up, I was not really prepared for the mass that is the self-seeding wave start. The pool area was very well organized, but there were a lot of people waiting to get into the water. Thankfully my brother-in-law settled me down and explained that there will be a wait before we needed to worry about our place in line. Each swimmer is sent out at 15 second intervals so the line did take a while to get to us.  He also encouraged me to join the 12 minute line for the swim instead of the 15 minute group. As I mentioned, I hadn’t really prepared for the race, and had not done any real swimming so I was going to take it easy and take a slower pace.  Am I ever glad I didn’t do that! As it was, I could have passed my brother-in-law; we finished the 500m together under 12 minutes. Once out of the pool, we headed back outside to our shoes and started to walk/run back to the T-zone for the 21 km bike ride.

Unlike last year’s duathlon, my bike did not have any mechanical issues during the tri.  I’m sure that has a lot to do with the tune-up it received from Mobivelo as an early Father’s Day gift.  The gears worked great this time. I wasn’t trying to kill myself as I had not been on the bike at all. In fact the first time I rode it this year was race day — not a recommended strategy — and I’m pretty happy with my 46 minute time. Sure I’m not winning any prizes with that time, but it was good and my legs were strong the entire ride. The route itself went north from Carleton U along the Rideau Canal and then back to Hog’s Back Falls and back to to Carleton; the Sprint Distance did this loop twice. The segment to Hog’s Back is slightly uphill so it was a good challenge for my untested legs.

https://www.strava.com/activities/583161907/embed/c7025ef98e7b1bffe66fedc22a32b82fecfbcb4d

The return to the T-zone was slower than I planned. I still have to work on switching from my bike shoes to my running shoes.  Even though I have speed laces, I still find the move to running gear is my slowest. Oh well, if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth doing again and again. Regardless, the run was also okay except that it was along the uneven edge of the road. Because I was worried about injuring myself, I ran on the road until the path evened out a bit.  I had practiced this out-and-back loop route the week before so i wasn’t totally unfamiliar with it and I was ready for the hill in the middle.  It was great to see my neighbours along the route as they cheered me on, especially on the way back.  As I often do, I fell in with a runner whose pace I liked and stuck with her.  She was finishing the Long Tri and she looked like she could run forever.  I kept up with her, though, and finished strong (I think). Even with a slow transition, I managed to come in just under 30 minutes. When I crossed the line I raised my hands triumphantly, knowing that I am a triathlete.

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Brothers & Triathletes in arms!

Having now completed a tri, even a Sprint distance, I know I will do another. I may even challenge myself to a longer distance, just not yet. For those looking to give multi-sport a try, consider one of the Somersault Events. They’re fun, but challenging, and they have distances to fit most abilities from beginner to elite.

E: Egads #atozchallenge

Egads! We are 6 days into April and I have yet to submit a single post for the A to Z Challenge I foolishly (optimistically) signed up for. I have some great good ideas for posts, but I have yet to actually write anything. I am going to try to go back and fill in the gaps from the first 5 days.

In addition to the realization that I hadn’t actually managed to get anything written is that I haven’t exercised much in the last while. I serious of unfortunate events prevented my progress: flood into my exercise area, chest cold (hard to exercise when you can’t breath), work challenges and timelines, and apathy (hey a topic for A!). Of course, excuses are like noses — everybody has one, and some of these really should not have precluded working out. I did manage to get out for a 5 km run one day, but then life got in the way and the weather turned cold again so I didn’t get out for more.

 

First 5 km run of the year. I even ran a reindeer!

So as my first triathlon draws nearer, I do need to get out there and move, or at the very least put my exercise gear back in place and start riding the bike indoors. First things first, though; I have to keep writing and posting.

Wish me luck with my various challenges!

 

Where did THAT number come from?

Have you ever had one of those days when you stepped on the scale, looked at the flashing light, and then stifled a slight gasp when the numbers stop flashing? That was my experience this morning. I knew my weight was creeping up ever so slightly because I’m not running right now, but I did not expect what was presented to me today. How could this happen? I’ve been so careful; even though I’m not running, I am exercising. Sure I wasn’t being careful at Christmas, but hey it’s hard to completely abstain when there was so much awesome cooking happening, which of courses required the appropriate libations. But that was a month ago and I had recovered from those indulgences.

One of the things I’ve learned in my job as a Vice Principal is that you have 15 seconds to think before reacting. Instead of beating myself up about gaining back a bit more weight than I thought, I paused and took sometime to think about my eating habits in the last few weeks. A little reflection is a powerful thing, and here’s what I discovered. We had a retirement party for our Office Administrator — snack food and drinks. Last week was exam week which means we order lunch one or two times — chinese food, shwarma with a side of potatoes and garlic (I NEVER get the side but a colleague bought it for me), a can of ginger ale. Those two lunches alone would have been enough to kill any efforts to keep my wieght in check, but when you’re on a roll why stop.  That’s right, I also realized I consumed of few more treats last week: dessert squares, cinnamon loaf/sticky bun from the Rideau Bakery (if you’re from Ottawa you may know why it is hard to resist this awesomeness), and guys night out beer and wings. But heck, with things going so well, why stop there. This weekend my daughter had a ringette tournament in Kingston. We usually eat healthy food when we hit the road, but there are few things that aren’t so good. In addition to the three visits to Minos where we had a couple very tasty Greek salad with sliced chicken breast — she ate a medium all by herself and I had some chicken souvlaki pita wraps — we had a visit to Woodenheads for gourmet pizzas. I also had an excellent 8 Man English Pale Ale from local brewery MacKinnon Brothers.  Add to that the oversized hotel breakfast, pizza dinner with the team, Lone Star fajitas, and beverages, and I know I had way too many calories coming in. Running 5k on the treadmill and doing my regular workouts while away couldn’t keep the weight at bay. I finished everything off with a potluck lunch at work yesterday. Even taking small portions, I still managed to eat too much. Again, even though I worked out last night, the little numbers on the scale continued to go up.

All of this brings me to today. It’s the beginning of a new month and a new semester. This is an opportunity for a new start, a new resolve, and a new direction. Interestingly, on one of the blogs I regularly read, Andrew Richter’s Fitness for the Regular Guy was a motivating post that reminds people to Keep It Simple, Stupid when it comes to getting back on track. Timely for sure and pretty basic, but good to remember. I’m keeping track of my exercise in a journal, I’m going to get back to more blogging, and I’m focusing on eating healthy food in appropriate portion sizes. I know where the number came from, and I’m working hard to get away from there.

A Tale of Two Seasons

Usually my autumn and winter running is much like the start of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Surprisingly, I  have enjoyed running and the the feelings associated with it. Although I have often said I do not exercise and I am not a runner, that isn’t really true. That said, once winter comes along, I stop running. Because where I live it is usually cold and snowy in December. Look at the forecast from this week in 2014:

YOWWeatherDec2014

Do you notice the temperatures? Most days the thermometer registered a number around 0C, but check the fine print. In Canada we use this little thing called wind chill to indicate what it really feels like. That means on most days it wasn’t really sitting just above or below the freezing matr; no is really felt much colder, like -15C (5F for any readers south of the border). And if that’s not bad enough, take a look at snowfall? On December 10, there was 15 cm of snow. That is NOT running weather.

Let’s jump ahead a year. Back in late October, as the weather started to get colder, I stopped running. I managed to time my break perfectly with a case of shin splints which wasn’t fun but it did help add to me excuses reasons for not running. I assumed that we were headed to another cold, wet, snowy autumn and early winter. Oops, I didn’t see the El Nïño effect coming into play quite so early. Look at the weather for this week:

YOWWeatherDec2015

What a difference a year makes! Nice early fall running weather in the middle of December. Of course this doesn’t mean I have actually been running. However, as I was walking my dog and thinking about a comment my daughter made regarding a Green Christmas, it occurred to me that perhaps I had missed an opportunity to log some additional kilometers before the real impact of winter hits. I could have built up some credit before the worst of the winter eating really sets in. Of course hindsight has 20/20 vision; I haven’t taken advantage of this awesome weather, and I’m regretting it. Of course in any year, there are some ups and downs so maybe this is the down for me; when I had the chance to push myself, I didn’t do it.  But next year holds great promise. I’ve already started working out at home with bodyweight exercise and my bike.  I’ve been down this path before, but I’m getting further ahead, and not falling so far behind, as I have other times. As always, there has to be hope.

IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens

Excuses, I’ve got a few.

This morning when I stepped on the scale, I thought at first my eyes had deceived me. Did it really register that number? 199. No way. How did it happen? Oh yeah, I spent the weekend at a tournament where I didn’t eat the best food. Sure I used the dreadmill in the hotel, parked as far away from doors as possible, and did yoga in my room, but all that managed to do was help keep the weight gain disaster to a minimum. For the last 3 months my weight has consistently been 3 to 4 pounds lower than that, and I plan to keep it there for the winter. I know the weekend gain doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but having worked so hard to get below 200 lbs, realizing that I could have come so close to hitting that number again in a single weekend is a shock.

I have written before that my exercise typically drops off during the winter.  This year I am only coaching one team, and it only has practices once a month so I’m not getting much skating. My bike is set up in the trainer, but I haven’t actually used it yet. Running in winter doesn’t appeal to me as I fear injury, but I may have to rethink that. I have lots of fitness app, but I’m not using them as regularly as I should.

The idea of scheduling exercise into your daily routine is not new, now unfamiliar to me. Changing my behaviour, however, is another story. I know I’m not alone in this, and that other much more successful runners (and bloggers) have had to double back and re-set their path. Their stories are both familiar and inspirational to me; there is hope and there is a community of support. Clearly, though, I will have to get my body moving.

Hey I Saw You Looking At Me

Hey you. Yeah, you. Do you remember that time you saw that guy at the 4km mark of the race running with pretty poor form? You know, knees too high — I mean WAY to high — probably over exerting himself, and not looking like he was enjoying the experience. But trying to look like he was and that he knew what he was doing. You looked like you weren’t sure what you were seeing. Like maybe this guy was some ironic representation of what a real runner looks like. First you smiled that uncomfortable half smile, then you grimaced as though in horror, but all of this melded into a look of stunned abhorrence for the person who was making a mockery of the sport you love.

Well that guy — that runner — was me. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I knew I didn’t. But I finished the race, and I’ve been proud of that moment ever since. Sure I’ve learned what proper form looks like. My knees are lower, and my turn over rate is faster. I’m lighter on me feet, and there’s even a solid finishing kick when I get to the end. I’ve completed duathlon, 5k, 8k, 10k, and half-marathon events. I’m a faster, stronger runner, but I still take pretty bad post race selfies. And I’ve never forgotten the look on your face. I wonder it looks like now.

Goals Achieved!

At the beginning of the new year I, like many others, set out some goals. Nothing huge, but things I thought I could achieve over the course of the next 12 months. Even though we’re only at the end of October (where has the year gone?), I think it’s time to reflect on the year and my progress. Some goals were realized. Some goals are still a work in progress. That’s okay. I’m happy that I even managed to realize some of the goals.

Let’s recap.

  • Goal 1: blog more
    • This sort of happened, but it has been sporadic. Posts have been a mix of reflections on my exercise mixed with some of my photos. I didn’t write nearly as much as I thought, especially my A to Z Music series. I haven’t given up on the idea; instead I’m rethinking my strategy.
  • Goal 2: sub-200 weight
    • In fact I did achieve this goal. At first I kind of didn’t believe it was true, but when I stepped in the scale and it read 199 for more than just 1 day it started to sink in that I was finally less than 200 lbs. My weight still fluctuates between 195 and 198, and I’m worried that it will creep back up this winter as I’m not running, but my eating habits have improved and I’m working on an exercise plan that involves my daughter’s BOSU.
  • Goal 3: sub-30 minute 5k & sub-60 minute 10k
    • Amazingly I managed to achieve and surpass both my 5k and 10k goals. I’ve written about these accomplishments before, but it still amazes me that I have managed to get this fast. My 5k is usually around 26 mins now, and I’ve even had 25 minutes runs on a few occasions. My 10k time got down to 56 minutes by the end of my running season. These times are a whole lot faster than when I started.
  • Goal 4: regular stretching and exercise
    • How can we define regular? Does once a week constitute regular? Or does three times a week sound more like regular? One of my colleagues works out every other day. She’s transformed her body and self image by following her new regime (and by adapting a strict diet but that’s another story). While I was running, swimming, and biking daily during the spring and summer, the return to work and cold weather has caused me to fall of the exercise path. So I’m trying to schedule time for exercise three times a week. Time that I can spin on my bike in the basement, use the BOSU, or my SWORKIT app so that I continue to be healthy and not lose the momentum I’ve gained so far this year.

How has your quest for goal success gone this year? Any surprises?

Improvements Made, Lessons Learned

The first time I ran a race, the 2009 Army Run, I had never run any long distance.  My training was inconsistent and uninformed.  Yes, I tried to follow the 10 & 1 rule recommended by various experts.  I ran around the neighbourhood and the school track a few times, much to the amusement of my family.  I knew I wasn’t going to finish anywhere near the front of the group, but I knew I was going to finish, I just wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me.  The route takes runners past Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Memorial, and along the World Heritage Site Rideau Canal. It is also the route many students from Lisgar Collegiate Institute have run for years as part of their Canal run in gym class.  As my father was a teacher and Head of Phys. Ed. at Lisgar for 33 years, he knew exactly how long it should take somebody to run that 5k loop.

2009 Army Run Result

When I finished my first race, I proclaimed my success to any and all who would listen. My dad’s response he has stuck with me more than anybody else’s. He was pleased that I had completed the race, but my time of 36 minutes received a less than enthusiastic response: “It should’ve taken you 25 minutes.”  That’s it. At the time I was impressed that I finished at all. Sure I knew I could go faster, like maybe as fast as 30 minutes, but 25 minutes was just plain crazy. That’s the kind of pace/time super-fit, lean, long-legged true runners achieve. Not 220 lb, stocky, thick calved coach potatoes lumber to.

The idea that I could run 5k faster than I did, let alone in 25 minutes, has stuck with me since. As a result, I’ve been more aware of my pace, my form, and my effort. When I did finally run 5k in 30 minutes (last year), my daughter’s wise assessment was “That’s what happens when you run more.” Not bad for a then 11 year old. Typically, though, I do not spend enough time each year running to get much faster. Last year I was averaging about 7:15/km while still holding to the 10:1 pattern. This time held regardless of the distance; sometimes I was a bit faster and sometimes I was bit slower. While I was pretty pleased with that time, I knew I was getting faster and stronger. I started running a couple of times a week in April of 2015, and fairly quickly (no pun intended) I was getting under 7:00/km. Sure enough those times started dropping below 6:00/km and I wasn’t stopping for walk breaks anymore. Imagine my surprise when I finally ran 5k in 5:05/km — that’s a time of 25:22. I had finally achieved what my father said I could do, something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do. What changed? Quite simply, I did. I exercised more this year than any other year. I made better food choices. I worked at it.

I weigh less and I move more; that’s a simple equation for success. But there’s more to than that. I value each accomplishment I’ve made, and I recognize that while those accomplishments will come and go like the tide, I have to keep at it. Here’s hoping I stick with into the winter and beyond.