February 21, 2011

On the Upswing

After two days of rest and travel to the West Coast I attempted my 15-mile run and was successful in finishing relatively complication free. The biggest challenge wasn't my leg or foot, but a very terrifying encounter with a dog looking pretty much like this, minus the leash.

I saw a different loose dog as I approached so I turned off the iPod, crossed the street and picked up the pace. As I passed the house, there were two smaller dogs in the fence barking furiously but the loose dog was nowhere to be seen. Then seconds later the larger, far scarier beast charged straight toward me and came within inches. I screamed, threw a water bottle at it and leaped into a muddy ditch to put some distance between us. Thankfully he retreated and didn't attack me. This was just before Mile 4 and it took quite some time to regain composure. I was running amongst ranches and lemon groves, stunningly beautiful, but opted to do nearly 9 miles on a 2-lane highway to avoid more loose dogs. Such a shame.

But the leg held up and I was able to pick up the pace in the final 4 miles, a very good sign. I wouldn't say I'm out of the woods just yet, but I feel relieved at being able to get back to the schedule even if cautiously at first. I rewarded myself afterward with some post-run refueling in Ventura.

We drove up to Central Coast wine country in the afternoon and had a lovely evening. It's breathtaking. I could just sit outside and enjoy the view from our outdoor kitchen that is roughly twice the size of my entire New York City apartment.

We lit a fire, assembled a snack buffet and enjoyed some of the day's purchases before sleeping 9 blissful hours. Vacation is a wonderful thing.

February 17, 2011

One Day You're Up, The Next You're Down. So Very Down

What a week. Work exploded and I had to retreat from the blog world and other lovely things like eating properly and sleeping. I have never felt so thinly spread in my life, not even during the final build for Ironman so that's saying a lot. I'm a master at juggling and I managed to keep most items in life afloat (minus the sleep thing). So looking back on the past 7 days, it started at an absolute high and has ended at an absolute low.

I had a good long run in Central Park followed by an incredibly fun dinner and night out with a good friend. I went to Core Fusion the next day and hopped on the train to Westchester for another great night out with a friend. Sunday was busy, but productive and happy. I had another great run, a speed work session. Life was good.

Then I woke up Monday to a nagging pain in my groin and figured it was nothing. I ran again, this time it was horrible, and work simultaneously blew up. I couldn't sleep and each day made me feel less and less like a human being. By yesterday I was in a foggy stupor and wondered how I'd keep going. But I managed to get to another core class, keep handling work, pack and prepare for my next Cali trip, and attempt another run.

Only the run didn't go well. I started out stiff and the groin pain increased as I continued. At times I didn't notice it at all, but if I stopped at a traffic light and started up again it was severe. Sitting at my desk was fine, walking around the office was unbearable. It seems to be Pubic Symphisitis (yeah folks, I don't make this shit up) and it is likely from running on black ice in less than ideal conditions and forcing my hips to stabilize. I should have just stuck to the treadmill.

I'm trying not to let it get me down. I am flying to LA tomorrow so it's a rest day, and Saturday I'll attempt a long run. I hope it goes well. I'm in my final build for the marathon so if I have to take an extended rest I'm out of the race. I've had enough 26.2 mile slogs to not need another so I won't force this race if it wasn't meant to be. Please cross your fingers for me.

February 9, 2011

The Diet Debate

Over the past few years, food has become a hot topic. It felt like everyone was reading or talking about The Omnivore's Dilemma. Many of us started questioning what we ate and realized we weren't as healthy as once thought. Then Food, Inc. came along and rocked our worlds. If you had the same reaction as I, you never saw food the same again and hopefully never ate certain things again.

Beyond exploring the origins of food, multiple theories about diet began surfacing. The Paleo Diet claims to be how we were born to eat. The China Study and upcoming film Forks Over Knives make the case for eliminating animal products entirely to combat chronic disease. More and more people are experimenting with vegetarian and even vegan lifestyles. And on the extreme end of the spectrum are the fruitarians (30 bananas a day... no joke).

How do you wade through the mountains of information and land on the right approach for you?

I've shared bits of my personal journey to better eating over the past year, often in the form of complaints or frustration. In mid-2009 I gave up all refined sugar and grains, opting for a much cleaner approach to eating. This was to increase fat metabolism and improve body composition for my first Ironman. While I desperately missed pasta, bread and chocolate, it worked. I looked and felt better than ever before and it wasn't that challenging of a change.

Following the race, I lapsed back to my old eating habits and paid the price with how I looked and felt in 2010. After struggling through two more Ironmans at sub-optimal race weight and a gluttonous offseason (see this post about a week of eating in Wisconsin, it sums it up nicely) I decided to make a change. I started with a 5-day juice cleanse to kick start a better approach to 2011 and was surprised by the results. Not only did I lose weight I have since kept off, but it drastically changed how I eat. I had to phase out sugar, alcohol, caffeine, animal protein and dairy prior to the cleanse and ease back very gradually post-cleanse. Around that time I started dating a mostly vegetarian so some foods never made it back into my diet. I had a tenfold increase in my vegetable consumption and while I've had coffee occasionally, I'm not the cracked out addict I was before.

So what does all of this mean? As an athlete I think it's incredibly hard to strike the right diet balance. We're told to eat carbs and unfortunately tend to seek highly refined sources. We're told we need protein so we overload on chicken breasts. Vegetables are lower in calories and lack "substance" so we consume far less than we should. Most of us do ok with this approach and are healthy for the most part, but I felt I could do better.

I still indulge, particularly when I go out to dinner and travel. I drink wine... a lot of wine. I eat cheese when the mood strikes even though I gave up dairy. I eat chocolate just about daily. I eat really good bread when the opportunity presents itself. I eat fish occasionally and turkey, chicken or pork even less occasionally, and since none are the mainstays of my diet, I enjoy them so much more. I feel better, I've lost 11 pounds since mid-December and am on track to reach my ideal race weight by Spring. I still haven't figured out where I live in the diet spectrum - not quite Paleo because I eat unrefined grains; not quite vegetarian because I occasionally eat meat. Since food is a passion, I'll never take it too seriously and will aim for 80-85% "good" and 15-20% "fun." Seems like a great compromise to me.

February 7, 2011

Happy People Come From California

Woke up in wintry NYC, spent my afternoon here

I've decided it's not just the cows that are happy in California, it has to be everyone unless they've never bothered to pause and notice how perfect the weather is. Just in time to stave off seasonal affect disorder, I had three blissful days in Southern California. It was the perfect combination of doing fun things that were incredibly laid back and doing absolutely nothing, which was so nice for a change.

Afternoon picnic in Malibu

With early travel and a leisurely day picnicking on the beach and drinking wine, Friday was rest. Saturday was my long run so I went to Santa Monica and ran South along the beach to Venice and back. The scenery was beautiful and the sun was shining, but I felt awful. I had a nasty cold all week and didn't do a bit of running, plus I was totally under fueled and paid for it. I still managed to enjoy it and finished it with a 60-minute massage. So not a bad day.

Sunday was pure relaxation. I slept late, had the best pancakes ever and lounged in the sun for hours. Sometimes doing nothing is more enjoyable than something and it's nice to slow down and take it all in. Even though I was on the red-eye and in the office all day I feel completely refreshed. I'd say that was the perfect weekend.

February 3, 2011

Silver Linings

During every race plan I seem to have rough patches where the best laid plans go totally awry. But rarely do the patches include a bright side. This week was the exception. Thankfully it was a rest week so I didn't miss anything critical, and ultimately gained a few things. Here's what happened:
  • Monday - Came down with the latest viral plague circulating NYC. I skipped a 30' easy recovery bike, no big deal. Stayed up late packing for a Wednesday business trip to New Orleans followed by a fun weekend trip to California.
  • Tuesday - Felt like a bus ran me over. Skipped another 30' easy bike and had hell break loose at work as Snowpocalypse Part III proceeded to force us to cancel the New Orleans event. I was left with no way to get to CA from NYC so I quickly found a solution and salvaged my weekend. Silver Lining Number #1.
  • Wednesday - On the mend but instead of Snowpocalypse, we were blanketed in ice making the day miserable. My coach advised me not to run or bike, but said I could go to Core Fusion if I felt up to it. Silver Lining #2. I went and absolutely loved it. I also finished packing and was totally ready to go for my sunny weekend getaway.
  • Thursday - Started the day with an early Core Fusion class and had my running stuff packed up for a post-work treadmill session. The day turned to crap and I worked 11 hours so the last thing I felt like was the dreadmill. I came home and had wine instead.
I made it to Core Fusion 4 times this week, which was my goal, so I may not have done any marathon training but I discovered something new that will benefit me not only in my sport, but also in my life. And the best part about this week is that it's ending in California (Silver Lining #3). I arrive tomorrow morning and intend to completely check out and enjoy my time there.


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