End of Year Wrap-Up

I spent the last week in California, trying not to eat too much and getting in some morning runs. No chance to get to a pool, so my first day back in the water will be an adventure.

We were in Anaheim Hills, and as the name says, flat ground was hard to come by. My topographic map and my iPhone both said I was at 250m elevation at the front door, and this is what it looked like at the end of the driveway.

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Those houses showed as 300m on the map! It wasn’t all that bad, a short climb of about 40 feet up about a 35 degree incline. Steep, but over quickly. Then between 5k and 6k of running, depending on how many side streets I went up and back, all pretty much uphill to get to that top street.

After two days of that, I decided to try and work my way out the back of that neighborhood, and look for something flatter. Silly me, I crested the hill and decided I needed to quickly find a side street and get off of this hill. You can see the grade by the difference in the two light pole’s height.

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This is looking north down in to the Santa Ana Canyon, with the San Bernadino mountains way off in the distance. I had to stop my run, take this picture, and just take in the view for a couple minutes. Those peaks are 8,000-10,000 feet high, and two days later had snow on them. Then I found that side street I needed, and got off this hill. Later I found out that there is a great running trail next to the Santa Ana river that you can follow from the Pacific Ocean up in to the mountains for 110 miles. But at Christmas, short runs were all I had time to do.

On Christmas Day, I was told I could go down the hill the other way, and get in a “flat run” of about 1.5 miles to the Walnut Canyon Reservoir, which has a great trail all the way around it for 1.6 miles. So off I went. The road rolled up and down about 45 feet, but better than what I had been running.
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As I was running around the reservoir, I again had to stop and take a photo. Same mountains off in the distance.

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Including a fast couple of walking circuits around the Phoenix airport during a long layover, I managed to get in 21 miles and lost one more pound. With three days to go, and 1.6 pounds left to lose to meet my goal of 40 pounds by the end of the year, I am really thankful I started this phase of my life – but my legs have been letting me know they are not used to those kinds of hills!

Nothing Much Has Been Happening

Yesterday I finally broke my goal weight loss barrier. I wanted to lose 36 pounds by Christmas, when I started, and I had no idea how achievable that was. Now I’d like to get down about 4 more pounds, and see if I can keep it there. Oh, and work on getting the stomach flat, to match the new look.

I this article yesterday, Burning energy may build up your brain and really liked the part that says “In the study of 876 adults (ages ranged from 69-95), those who burned the most calories had 5 percent more gray matter…If you want to maximize the effect on your brain, these physical activities are something people have to start engaging in earlier in life, in your 50s and 40s”. So I’m not just burning calories, and feeling better. I’m increasing my grey matter. Even better.

Since I finished my first 10k a couple weeks ago, I just been working on stamina in both swimming and running. I have finally gotten my 100 yard average time, for a one hour swim, to drop from a really bad 4:15 to a mostly bad 2:37. Which, if my math is correct, is a 38% improvement since the first of November. Before then, I did not even speak of times.

My running time is now below 10 minutes per mile, but I prefer to call it 7 minutes per kilometer, because it sounds faster. Still plenty of room for improvement!

I don’t really have any plans set for 2013, but already have a couple 5k/10k runs in my area that I I’d like to do. If I think I have progressed to being able to finish a half marathon still standing up, I’ll need to find one that happens before June, because by July it gets bloody hot in Alabama. June would be month ten of my new fitness life, so that’s also good timing.

So here’s to hoping I can keep exercising over the holidays, and keep the weight off as well, and head in to January with no backsliding. Merry Christmas to anyone who happens to see this post!

I Can’t Believe I’m Eating Yogurt

After putting on several pounds over Thanksgiving, setting my weight loss back a couple weeks, I decided I should man-up and try some of this Chobani Greek Yogurt I keep hearing about.

I bought a Plain and an Apple Cinnamon, and I have to tell you, the Plain was like eating Elmer’s glue. But I had already bought the Apple Cinnamon, so I tried it the next day. Maybe because the first attempt had set the bar so low, this one was edible – but not enough to buy it again.

But then I saw on the Chobani website that every flavor had a “likability index”. Non-fat Plain got a 291, and Apple Cinnamon got a 350. But Black Cherry got a 412, and I used to love Black Cherry Jello, so I bought one…and it is awesome! Stir all the fruit from the bottom and it is a smoothie right out of the cup. And it’s 0% fat.

So then I tried the 2% fat Pineapple (it got a 413) and to pump it up I added a Dole Pineapple Tidbits cup, and it’s great also.

Here’s the cool part – the nutrition benefits. The Black Cherry has 140 calories in a 170g cup, with no cholesterol, no fat, 70mg of sodium, 22g of carbs, 21g of sugar, 14g of protein, and 15% RDV of calcium.

To compare, a 6″ Subway turkey sandwich on Italian wheat bread (the lowest in sodium) with no cheese or condiments, has 280 calories in 221 grams, with 20g cholesterol, 810mg of sodium, 46g of carbs, 7g of sugar, 18g of protein, and 30% RDV of calcium.

Half the calories of a Subway turkey sandwich, a tenth the sodium, and a third the cost. Yup, I’m hooked.

My First 10k Race

I finished my first 10k race today! This might get people jealous in other parts of the world, but here, on December 8th, it was 61 degrees Fahrenheit and 88% humidity at 8:00am. An absolutely great day to be out running.

I really wanted to get this done before the Christmas holidays arrived (I’ve lost 34 pounds as of today, with 6 more to go, and will be fighting weight over Christmas), and I found a great race. The Jingle for Tots run, in Alexander City, is a combined 5k and 10k where we lucky 10k runners got to do a second lap.

It’s put on by the First United Methodist Church as a fund raiser for Toys for Tots. The proceeds go to it, and every runner had to bring a new toy as well. How could I go wrong? I got a new 10k PR, I got to run with bells on my shoes without people thinking I was odd, I got a long sleeve t-shirt with this logo on it, and I got a pancake breakfast.

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I had gone to Runner’s World and used their Pace Times Predictor and got a 10k time based on my 5k from about two months ago, and beat that time by 8:43. So I am happy about that. But I was 1:10 over my personal goal, so just a little disappointed in that.

I’m still doing run/walk negative split intervals, and had the headset on with the little voice in my ears telling me slower or faster. That really helped me pace myself the entire way, and the negative splits force me harder at the end, to help me build endurance. But the last 1.5 mile of both laps was uphill all the way. My GPS says about 85 feet in elevation change (but probably not all that accurate). Main thing was my knee started letting me know it was mad at me by about mile 5, and uphill is what gets it mad. So all things considered, it’s already been an excellent weekend.

I Really Feel Like A Runner Now

I just got back from my 5k run, and looking at my previous post, it hit me – I had just casually mentioned “tapering down” by running a 5k.

When I started three months ago, I could not make it one lap around an indoor 200m track. And now my pace is 21% faster than when I started. It’s still a back-of-the-pack pace, but that’s 21% faster outside than my beginning pace was inside.

Writing this blog – really just for myself – has helped me to focus. But support from random strangers has also been a big help. A guy at my Wellness Center, that I had seen but never spoken to, asked had I lost weight, and told me to keep it up. A guy in Iowa I have never met has offered encouragement for my first 10k.

So to anyone who stumbles across this blog, remember – you never know when that stranger might be thinking negative thoughts, or getting discouraged. Maybe your simple word of encouragement will be all it takes to get them over their hump or through their pain, or just help them get out of bed tomorrow morning and keep being an athlete!

Swimming Freestyle (and breathing)

As I began my fitness swimming three months ago, I focused on breaststroke because it helped me focus on breathing better than I thought freestyle would. My goal has been to get out of bed every morning and either run or swim for an hour, then go to work. After I had built up my endurance to getting 2000 yards of breaststroke in an hour, I switched to freestyle.

I thought I should just start with bilateral breathing, but this just hasn’t worked for me. I just can’t seem to develop the consistency to get multiple laps – always panting at the end of 50 yards. Then I came across a post by Gary Hall, Sr. about bilateral breathing – A Better Way To Breathe?.

What he says is “Cycling or running at maximal exertion requires between 50 and 60 respirations per minute. If you are swimming anywhere from 800 yards to 2.4 miles, chances are your stroke rate is 50 to 60 strokes per minute. A swimmer taking 60 strokes per minute and breathing to one side on every stroke cycle (1:2 ratio) takes only 30 breaths per minute, far below the body’s chosen rate. If you are an alternate breather, breathing first to one side, holding two strokes, then breathing to the other (1:3 ratio), your respiratory rate is even slower at 20 breaths per minute“. So by trying to start out using bilateral breathing, I was getting only a third of the oxygen my (not yet trained) body wanted.

This week I switched back to a 1:2 ratio breathing on the same side, which with his logic says I’m getting 50% more oxygen, and I did 2000 yards freestyle in my hour. Now I have months and years to actually improve my stroke to look like a swimmer. Oh, and now that I can do multiple laps, I have to learn how to flip turn. Actually, I like the British version “tumble turn” better.

The rest of Gary Hall’s article goes on to describe a more complicated 2:3 breathing pattern that gets you up to 40 breaths per minute, but that skill is for later, for me. Another concept he had was learning to practice breathing on one side all the way down the lane, and the other side coming back. The reason is, in an open water swim, if the wind is blowing waves into you on one side, it might be very useful to know you can breathe on the non-windy side the entire distance.

So now I’m off to run 5k, as I taper for my first 10k next Saturday.