Friday, January 25, 2008

By the way...

Hey Krista, are you out there?

Krista commented with this on a previous post:

I just found your blog and documentary and have really enjoyed watching it.

I absolutely love the 3-face logo, did you create that? I'd love a copy of it or to buy it on a poster or card, to frame and have in my inspiration office/bike room.

Please let me know. Thank you.

Unfortunately there was no link for your own blog or anything Krista, so here we are sending messages in bottles. To answer your question, I did create the 3-face logo. I'm glad you enjoy it, thanks much for the compliment. I hadn't considered at all doing anything commercial with it, not thinking that it was anything but, y'know, my face. But as your inquiry suggests, there's certainly no reason the 3-face logo can't be representative of us all, no? A legion of 3-facers! Onward All With Faces Three! So let's pose the question - does anybody else out there feel like it'd be cool to have 3-face logo stuff? Feel like relating to it in your own right, and not like you're wearing x's face all around? If there's interest, I'm certainly happy to explore it, and in fact think it would be fun. So, lemme know, anybody. And Krista, if you can give me a way to contact you directly, we can continue this conversation elsewhere.

Okay, we now return to the post just below this one. Carry on.

Less Triumphant

So. Well, the grand 6 week experiment has hit a few bumps, which have all been lessons in themselves. Nothing catastrophic - I've not, y'know, gorged on burritos and chips until I couldn't walk, but I have had lunch meetings with clients, and done some traveling which required, despite truly my best efforts, a chicken sandwich or two at a fast food joint (I have substituted apples for fries at least), and yesterday on my way to a meeting I sincerely needed some breakfast, and with getting my daughter ready to go to her aunt's house and prepping for this meeting and every other thing, I was relegated to a Breakfast Burrito at McD while en route, because it seemed the least offensive.

Compounding all this is that it's been cold. Damn cold. Sinister cold. Piss a person off just for going outside cold. And while I like to walk around like a tough guy, it's just not practical to get out the door at 6:30pm when it's 2 below. If that makes me a dandy, then so be it. I'm in the market for a treadmill.

So really, all last week was kind of a wash, and I feel irritable about it. I wasn't able to be structured with my running, and I was required to be more flexible than I wanted to be with my eating. The thing about eating healthy is it's inconvenient. This is part of why this country is lolling around in its own gristle. The reality of my life right now is that it's crazy. At least, crazier than anything it's ever been before. Which - I have no regrets about that at all, in fact I'm rather enjoying it, but it doesn't lend itself to the kind of forethought that healthful eating really requires. This is no excuse, just another challenge in the process. It's not just, I'm finding, that one has to be really determined to eat healthfully even when situations are optimum, but that entire industries exist around portable foods (think donuts, cookies, anything you can grab and ingest while on the go) to accommodate how busy people are. Walk into a gas station, and seriously, you're lucky if you can find a banana. Some Ho-Ho's, though, are right there next to the batteries.

Mmmmm. Ho Ho's.

So, I'm giving myself a C+ for last week, and a B so far on the whole experiment. 3 weeks to go, though...still lots of time to get back to an A. With warmer temps promised (I'm not, like, wanting for balmy. Just - how about about 5 degrees), I'll be back into my running schedule as well next week. So, I'll aim for an A+ next week - no missed workouts, no matter what, and nothing unhealthy, no matter what. Here's hoping...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Small Triumph

The scene: Dakota's daycare fell through a few weeks ago (long story), so while we get things situated for a new plan, daycare has fallen on me (I work from home) and my aunt (who is a simply awesome person). Yesterday my aunt's son had a baby boy of their own, so she was at the hospital all day. So it was just me and D all day. Plus, trying to work for a living. Fortunately it was my day off from training. Still - boy howdy, some kind of exhaustion. Not like - geez this little girl is more than I can handle - but just fatigue. Amy, meanwhile, finished a 10 hour day at work and was on her way home and called to ask what we should do for dinner. I was feeding Dakota. Amy was tired and not in the mood to go buy groceries for the salad she had planned. We were both shot. Finally, like all good Americans, I offered, "we'll just order pizza when you get home."

So when Amy got home I handed off parenting duties, and we agreed that while we were ordering pizza, we'd at least go for the lesser evil with it and go thin-crust, and Canadian bacon (ham, I guess the kids call it now) and pineapple. So we were keeping it as lean as we could. Then just before I hang up with the delivery guy, Amy says, "Oh, get me some cheesy bread."

Let me digress a moment. Week one of my grand experiment, where I have zero tolerance for crap in my diet, has so far gone pretty well. I had an alarming few moments on Tuesday (yes, TUESDAY, a whole TWO DAYS after starting this thing) where I'd have given my kingdom for a chocolate bar. But I abstained, and have been on course with sensible portions, no junk, and as natural as possible. One interesting thing I've encountered is how conditioned for crap I seem to be. I'll think, "I'm in the mood for something salty," and my mind immediately presents a big bag (not a snack-sized bag, mind you) of potato chips. Or I'll finish a meal and think, "man, something sweet would be perfect", and bang - chocolate comes to mind, and I start reeling with the perfection of the idea. So then I step back and think - okay, wait. If I was a caveman and I craved something salty, what would I eat? Probably some red meat? And then I try and plan accordingly to incorporate some more lean red meat the next day. Same with sweets - we call fruit "Jesus Candy" around here, because I tell Amy that God made fruit so we wouldn't need chocolate. What's interesting is it's the crap that comes to mind for the cravings before anything else, and I have to manually steer the ship around it to figure out what I really should eat, and really do need. If left on auto pilot, I'd be stuffing my face with a Concrete Mixer from Culver's.

Now, a caveat: I realize I said "zero tolerance for crap", and I meant it, but I'm also not living in a bubble. So probably it's not true zero tolerance. If my family gets together at a restaurant, for instance, or we have brunch plans with friends this weekend (which we do), true zero tolerance would mean not going, as it's likely that whatever I find there won't be as good for me as something I could make myself out of friggin' nuts and berries. Life is too short, and I'm not going to be that guy. So the trick will be to find and do what I can in those situations to stay focused on the experiment and find something to eat that's right for me. So maybe "zero crap" should be restated as "minimal, intentional avoidance of crap." Anyway.

So, back to the story. First thing I did after hanging up the phone was down a banana, to fill me up a bit. Then the pizza came, and I opened it up on the counter, and seriously there was this weird moment of silence between me and Amy as I looked at it. So steamy and gooey and smelling so good. And then the cheesy bread. So cheesy. I looked at her with honest-to-god helplessness. Was I really hungry for pizza - I mean, was I experiencing some kind of irrepressible hunger that only pizza would satisfy? Did it really even smell so good? No. It smelled like pizza. It looked like pizza. Nothing special, just some pizza. I realized I was having some kind of Pavlovian response to the idea of the pizza in front of me. The entertainment eating it would provide. And if you think about it (stay with me here), pizza is kind of cultural institution in this country. It is the easy choice for get-togethers, and dinners with friends, and good times, and beer and ball games. Likely my mind has a kind of love affair with pizza for all the things it associates with it. A little deep, I know, but hey, this is what was happening. And I sound like some kind of addict or chronic overeater, when I'm not - but pizza, or maybe "convenient mass produced pizza", I realize only just now, is a specific weakness, it seems. Amy recognized the helplessness in my eyes as I gulped, and said, "Just 2 pieces babe. That's all. Just put it away after that." So, I put 2 pieces on my plate, and tried to take my time eating it, and closed the boxes so I wouldn't look at the goodness inside.

I promised no numbers, but in case you wondered, here are the stats on a slice of Quartered Ham & Pineapple, Medium Thin 'N Crispy Pizza:

180 calories
60 calories from fat
6 g of fat
3 g saturated
23 g carbs
9 g protien

You know what? Not saying pizza is health food - cuz it ain't - but you can do a lot worse than that. The thing is, under any kind of normal circumstance where I wasn't out to prove something to myself, I would have a minimum of 4 pieces. More likely 6. And at least 2 pieces of cheesy bread, which wouldn't count. And I would do it without any awareness of if I was hungry or not, or if I was feeling satisfied - I would just eat them for the taste of it, and enjoyment of it.

But - I am extremely encouraged to say - I stuck to just 2 pieces. No cheesy bread. Another banana for dessert allowed me to not talk myself into "but I'm still hungry" (I wasn't), and that was it. It went in the fridge, for Amy to eat tonight or whenever.

This was the first time, really, that my grand plan had to be backed up with action, and while I'm encouraged that I withstood the mighty Power of Pizza, I'm more interested in how absurd my feelings about it got. I'm surprised I'm that weak, actually. If nothing else, this experiment might teach me the difference between need and want. And certainly I felt better the rest of the night, and today, with my fuel tank still full of clean stuff, not to mention knowing that I could step away like that. All good signs going into the weekend, anyway...

Monday, January 07, 2008

First day of school

Sometimes a 3 mile run is not a 3 mile run.

I set out this afternoon knowing this run was different. In fact, the whole day had been different, looking forward to this run. The whole weekend, in fact. And when the day brought with it temperatures in the mid 50's, and rain clattering off the roof during my lunch, and thunder rolling around just after, it seemed the whole world knew it wasn't a normal day.

I hit Play, then tap Start, and the first steps of training fall underneath me.

A season ends, and the hangover begins. And running comes when it can, and training is replaced with play, and the body craves rest and food and time. The swimmer treads water, the cyclist dismounts, the runner mostly walks. It's how it's always been, how it should be, how it will go. More significantly, though, is that mentally, there is disengagement. It's hard to care about a summer so far away when still exhausted from that which just passed. The mind, too, needs a break from the game.

I run easy down the sidewalk in my neighborhood, in shorts and long sleeves and a running hat. Melting snow retreats from the sidewalk, revealing slivers and edges of soaked grass and green. A thick fog hangs in the air; not the kind that's monochrome and featureless, but coming in sweeping wafts and wisps, like smoke on water. The huge snow-walls that I've been bounding over this winter have, in just three days, melted to almost nothing. This day, spring's impostor.

The holidays present one last surge of gluttony, but as soon as they're over, and the new year begins, there is a kind of awakening. The body and mind synchronize. Soon races are being researched, and schedules arranged, and regiments detailed. And there comes an anticipation, and a focus, and a day on which it's all to begin. When it's no longer recreational, but intentional. When the run isn't a jog. When it no longer exists in a vacuum, for it's own sake - but instead is responsible for tomorrow's run, and next week's, and the increased distance a month from now, and the new speed a month from then.

Tendrils of mist caress, cold and delicate, like running through clouds. I can see 50, maybe 75 yards ahead of me, before the world vanishes into thin air. If I look to my left, across the snow-covered baseball fields, the sky touches the earth, a wall of white. I can just make out someone walking across, disappearing in the fog's gradient, absorbed by the unknown. We are ghosts. The streets and sidewalks are wet for all the rain earlier, and lights reflect on them in a kind of surreality, making the ground look like still water. Headlights emerge in the distance ethereal and hazy, their vehicles invisible; haunted eyes. I decide it's appropriate, this literal and metaphorical running into the unknown. I decide this is the first time I've felt this way since training for Ironman One; it's not that this day was necessarily meant for me, but that I was meant for it. I nod in quiet appreciation at the universe's acknowledgment. I feel witness to phenomenon. It's then that I package this day, folded neatly, to be retrieved in September 2009.

Thoughts are purposeful, and pointed. A workout missed now is not an inconvenience, but an opportunity lost. And as I slide through this eerie atmosphere, I can just sense the production preparing behind the curtain; the energies of race day morning, the smell of freshly cut grass on summer evening runs, the refreshing coolness of water passing over my outstretched arm, the long shadow of a cyclist's form as twilight approaches after 20, or 40, 100 miles. The snow will come again, there will be more ice, more cold, more winter. But for now, as I emerge from the smoke, I can vaguely hear the tuning strings from the orchestra pit as the world prepares for its inevitable summer spectacle. I am among its players, and today began rehearsals.

The season is underway.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Six Week Sojourn

So this is what I'm thinking.

I eat pretty well. I keep a generally consistent diet of natural stuff. I am an ingredients reader. A label watcher. If it has the words "High Fructose Corn Syrup" in it, I generally put it back. I avoid "enriched wheat flour" or processed anything. Kashi fills the pantry. I don't tend to obsess about calories, but I am thoughtful of them in context of fuel for where I am in my workout season, and I generally do not overeat. I'm thoughtful of when I'm eating protein, fat, and carbohydrates. I don't drink soda, enjoy beer and wine only occasionally, and am pretty good about drinking lots of water. All good, yes.


I also throw it all out the window if, for instance, we're dining out. I'm a sucker for french fries. I can seriously eat 5 pieces of pizza and an order of 10 buffalo wings like it didn't just happen. If it's deep fried and described with the word "appetizer", I'll have 6, thanks. I crave Mexican food. More often than I'm comfortable admitting I grab a single candy bar in the checkout aisle, and I have a tendency to develop a pseudo-addiction to sweets if left unchecked. I am more than willing to "share" a dessert at a restaurant, and I famously have no willpower - such that we simply cannot purchase sweets to have in this house because I won't have one or two mini candy bars, I'll have eight or 13.

Helpfully, I casually ignore said indiscretions as though they aren't really happening. Because dining out, as you know, doesn't count. And one candy bar on the way out of Target hardly matters. 4 baskets of chips and salsa before my meal count as part of the meal, thank you very much, but are immediately forgotten about once my burrito arrives. And there are no calories in food consumed in the car while traveling distances longer than 100 miles. Or at movies. Everybody knows this.

You can see, then, that for every 4 or 5 days of pretty disciplined eating, I can have 2 or 3 of gluttony that more than make up for it, not to mention the Milky Way or Milk Duds that go un-noticed in the course of a day.

I've often wondered - what if I truly, really, seriously stuck to my guns. What if I absolutely omitted the garbage and junk. Not "did my best", or "really tried hard", but seriously went with nothing but clean fuel all the time. What would that be like? I don't have a desired outcome - I'm not trying to lose weight, specifically, or anything like that - though I'm sure I'd appreciate any health benefits. More, I just wonder what it would be like. How it would feel. How would I feel during, and after. Would I miss the junk - is it more important to me than I think? Would I be able to do do it? Because it sounds easy on paper - but when my whole family gets together and we order pizza, for instance - can I have just one or two pieces? When a bag of rolos is on the table, can I ignore it? When my Grandma makes her cookies, can I forgo them? Can I have zero tolerance for anything unclean and unnatural? I mean - is it even practical? Possible?

So, I'm going to try. This has actually been (a successful) week one, but I'm going to technically call Monday my starting date - only because that's also when I start training again in earnest, so might as well combine the efforts. I'm not going to write down every single thing I eat, and I'm not going to count calories, or anything like that. But I am going to try and stay with clean fuel with absolution. No exceptions.

It will require creativity at restaurants - avoiding dining out when possible, but when not, or when preferred (such as on a rare date with my wife, or out with friends or family), I'll have to find the healthiest thing I can, and in the most sensible portions - even if that requires my not eating the entire plate's worth. Sometimes we get together with my family for happy hour, with pizza or cheese and crackers, etc. I'll have to request thin crust when possible, and stick to only a piece or two of veggie, or Canadian bacon. I recognize that the world goes on around me, and I don't wish to remove myself from it with this experiment - life is too short. And, maybe that will be part of the point. Who knows.

Anyway, I'll share the progress with you here. It's not a stop and start kind of thing - if by Wednesday I'm eating an entire bag of chips, then I suck, the experiment fails, and much about me is revealed. I doubt that will happen, though - it's the "should we get dessert?" thing that will really tempt me, I think. I'll keep you apprised of the general and specific progress. I'll also let you know how, if at all, my workouts, energy levels, weight, lifestyle, etc. is being exceptionally affected by the experiment. And of course, you are welcome to join me, one and all.

So - presented here so as to create a bit of accountability. Making it real, that sort of thing. Here goes nothin'.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Happy New Year everybody. Hope your holidays were smashing, and that I wasn't the only one to gain 50 pounds in a week.

A few things to mention on this first day of the rest of our lives:

As you can see, the apartment has been redecorated. If you're not aware of some of the latest, my buddy TZilla, proud member of Team Two, has withdrawn from the game (read the earlier few posts). We've had some long conversations about things, and without speaking on his behalf, I'll just say that I think he's going through some stuff, but I think it's important stuff and part of his "taking a break" from triathlon involves making peace with some greater things about himself. I wholly support him, I absolutely have his back, and he's invited back here anytime he might want to. Meanwhile, I'll expect to see him with frequency on the comments, as he's been a steady part of this for me since the first days of the blog and is an important part of the Team. So: I am solo in this world of water, only the tip of a sunrise visible.

Next - in the same way that my office layout and decor is at present displeasing to me (I spent a lot of time on it after the move, but it just isn't clicking with me. So, on the agenda for early '08 is a new approach to this room where I spend so much of my time), so has this blog's contents been as of late. In January of '06 when I started this thing, it was full of minutiae about pacing and times and strategies (go ahead and glance back) - this was when the readership was really just a few buddies, and we were all figuring this whole thing out together. This perhaps made for some interesting reading if you knew me, but in general was borrrrrring. (Case in point - A few weeks ago I received an anonymous comment all the way back from one of those posts that simply said "zzzzzzzzzzz". Ha!) Then, when in the fierceness of training for Ironman One, the blog was this sort of journal of my general catharsis. Here is when a lot of unexpected visitors came onboard, some I now proudly consider friends, and the whole blogosphere kind of opened itself up in my universe. The blog was most fun for me then - I'd be in the middle of a crazy workout, encountering all these new things about myself, and would actually be thinking of the words I'd write to share it with you. Thing is - after finishing Ironman One, a lot of the ghosts I was outrunning in the process have been fully defeated. Finding myself with nearly complete peace of mind, the workouts, like the blog, have somehow changed. For better or worse, I no longer encounter the same phenomena, or approach them with the same curiosity. A 5 mile run is, sometimes, just a 5 mile run. And so, this has made for some pretty stale writing over here. I'm resolving to try and change that, both in my approach to the workouts and the blog. We'll see how that goes.

Also - I've gotten really lax lately about commenting on your blogs. I read them all, usually via Bloglines, and always with interest, but for whatever reason I tend to forgo the usual useless wit or small encouragement or laughing quip and just get on with my day happy to have heard what you'd said. I'm going to try and do better about that, and actually share with you when I'm in the room listening in on your conversations. I encourage you, by the way, to do the same. It's always nice to hear from you, whoever you are.

Lastly - a few small notes of thanks that I want to personally extend. '07 could not have been a crazier year. We got pregnant, put a house up for sale, moved to a new community where we had no friends, Amy started a new job, I broke my hand, my grandfather passed away, and oh yeah, we had a kid. Meanwhile, I was injured for most of the triathlon season, which eliminated a huge coping mechanism for me. It was nuts. A few things really made the craziness more manageable, and without this seeming like signing high school yearbooks or a popularity contest, and in no particular order, I'd like to acknowledge: Amy, who makes it all make sense; Mike, for being ever present even when he's not commenting (though he should more often); Zilla, for making me laugh so hard when we were moving stuff out of the truck that I'd drop stuff, and for sharing my lane at Chain of Lakes; CznE, who kicks ass; Tara Rae, who is Queen of Lurkers and who is reading this right now, and knowing that makes me feel like it hasn't really been 5 months since I last saw her; the Justice League of Triathletes, most notably Erin, Cos, Teach, and Brazo for being the originals - it's been really, really great to make friends with you all, and I mean that very sincerely. Also JLTers RobbyB and Thomps, who have been great for a laugh at dinner or a race, and who I look forward to spending more time with. TriSaraTops, who did everything on the baby front about 3 weeks ahead of us, and who has been a constant companion throughout. Finally, all the Ironman '07 athletes for whom I was so proud to cheer on, and if I was extremely fortunate, congratulate you at the finish line. Your stories meant the world to me. Thanks for sharing them.

Finally - for Christmas, my daughter smiled for the first time. That'll change your life, tell you what. "Honey, grab the camera, she's smiling!" Happy to share it with you here. Here's to all things that are new this year.