Monday, December 31, 2012

Twenty Miles and a Wild Goose Chase

 I hate geese.

Funny, though, for the first forty-seven years of my life, I had no idea I felt this way about those long-necked, feathery bastards.  Until this past Saturday, in fact, I hadn't had much interaction with them at all.

But at around mile 13 of a scheduled 20-mile run, our paths -- literally -- crossed.

There I was cruising down the road, the rockin' sounds of Tom Petty's "Don't Do Me Like That" pumping through my earbuds, when I noticed a trio of geese hanging out near a picnic table alongside Spring Valley Lake.  As I approached, I briefly made eye contact with their leader, a large gray and white guy with a nasty scar on his beak (I may have imagined that part).  Just as I ran by them, they decided to -- I swear I'm not making this up -- go on a full-scale, take-us-to-DEFCON-one, attack on my lower extremities.  Scarbeak began pecking away at my legs while his henchgeese flapped and squawked directly in front of me, blocking my path.  I ran through them, basically, and when Scarbeak continued his frenetic peck-o-rama, I retaliated with a swift kick to his midsection, increased my speed, and finally managed to bug-out just like the remaining MiGs in the movie Top Gun.

And before anyone goes all "animal rights" on me for kicking a goose, let me just say that I'll feel guilty about that particular evasive action when I see some info about an organization called GETHFK . . . Geese for the Ethical Treatment of Human Friggin' Kneecaps.

Moving on.

As I mentioned in passing a minute ago, Saturday was my very first 20-mile run.  This is a huge milestone for me, because in all of my pre-marathon research it says that you shouldn't go any farther than that during your training because, essentially, the last six miles of a marathon are all guts and determination anyway, so there's no point killing yourself before then.  I completed the twenty miles in about 3:45 which means in order to reach my marathon goal of five hours, I just have to do the last 6.2 (a 10K) in an hour-fifteen.  Now, my best 10K so far is 58:20, so at first glance you'd think that it wouldn't be much of a problem.


The 58:20 was running a 10K right out of the gate . . . not AFTER already going twenty miles and feeling like my legs were about to fall off (and it wasn't just because of the friggin' geese).  Still, the marathon's five months away, so I'm starting to think that finishing in five hours is realistic.  And as I've been saying all along, my main goal is just to finish.  Hitting a specific time goal is would just be a bonus.

Saucony Kinvara 3: The Mercedes of Footwear
I also got some great new gear during the holiday season.  First off, my lovely wife Theresa bought me a pair of Saucony Kinvara 3 running shoes, which are beyond comfortable.  Very light-weight, easy-to-see yellow, and much sturdier than the previous pair I'd been running in.  I also got a gift card to REI (an outdoors-type store) from my mom, which I used to pick up a nice running jacket.  It's all about style, right?

Next time: Fartleks.  They're not what you're thinking.

Recent Runs:
12/26/12:  10 miles, 1:47:20
12/28/12:  6.21 miles (10K), 58:54
12/29/12:  20.03 miles, 3:48:34
12/31/12:  6.21 miles (10K), 1:01:39

Countdown to My Next Event = 19 Days
Ontario Mills 10K
Hosted by the Christian Okoye Foundation
Ontario, Ca.
January 19, 2013

Countdown to the Orange County Marathon = 124 Days

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bloody What?

Prior to the October Mud Run
I only got out running three times this week as opposed to the usual four.  A busy schedule combined with a couple days of crummy weather forced me to shorten the schedule, although I did buy a pair of gloves and a beanie and managed to put in a 10K on Friday even though it was chilly and windy.  That is, it was the southern California version of chilly and windy, which means it was below fifty degrees and the wind was blowin'.  Still, the hat and gloves proved useful.

Our topic this week is "Side Effects of Running."  When I started this project, I assumed that there would be an impact on my body.  I expected to pick up a few blisters (I have), sore muscles (definitely), and maybe even a twisted ankle or tweaked knee (minor, but it's happened).  What I did not expect, however, was to finish a run, remove my jacket, and discover two medium-sized blood stains on the nipple region of my shirt.  But lo and behold, after my long run last week, that's exactly what I found.

With about three miles left in that run, I noticed a dull soreness in my chest and thought that perhaps this was the beginning of a mild heart attack.  You're probably asking, as my wife did, "Now Chris.  If you were out running, and your chest started hurting, why did you not stop and call for a ride?"  Reasonable question.  I figured that a heart attack would be a sharp pain, not soreness.  So I continued on my run ignoring the potential warning sign which was the song "Hearts on Fire" playing on my iPod at the time.  Turns out it wasn't a heart attack at all.  It was nipple-chafing.

After seeing the bloody shirt evidence, I immediately went on-line and Googled "bloody nipples running" and here's what I found.  Be advised, this is somewhat graphic and very creepy.

Now, mine weren't nearly that bad.  But you get the idea.  As I soon discovered, chafed nipples are a fairly common occurrence in distance runners.  Fortunately, it's somewhat easy to prevent by using something called Body Glide, which comes in a stick that looks like deodorant and you just apply it to your chi-chis prior to your run.  I did that this morning, and it worked like a charm.

But wow, talk about a few minutes of the willies.  On the bright side, no blisters.

This Week's Runs:

12/11: 4.17 miles, 43:33
12/14: 6.31 miles, 1:06:13
12/16: 18.0 miles, 3:27:07

Countdown to My Next Event = 34 Days

Ontario Mills 10K
Ontario, Ca.
January 19, 2013

Countdown to the Orange County Marathon = 140 Days

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Monday, December 10, 2012

How Do You Say, "Saucony?"

One thing that I quickly found out when I embarked on this running thing is that you can spend a lot of money on gear, gadgets, and garb.  I know, you're thinking, "It's just running.  What do you need besides a decent pair of shoes?"  And it's a legitimate question, because the truth is, you really don't need anything else.

But want is another question entirely.

For example, it turns out that I'm a bit of a clothes freak, and I have this thing about making sure my shorts and shirts aren't mismatched (at least not to a horrible degree).  So naturally, I've gone ahead and picked up Dri-Fit shirts in an array of colors and styles, several pairs of shorts, and a light pullover jacket for cooler mornings.  Also, it turns out that normal cotton socks tend to cause blisters, so I had to get a few pair specific to running.  They're quite comfortable, actually, although they don't come in argyle.

Moving on to technology, among the first things I did once I got a few runs under my drawstring was to download the Nike Plus app for my iPhone.  The app taps into my iTunes app, so I always have an energetic playlist going during my runs.  Also, Nike Plus tracks my time, pace, distance, calories burned, personal records, and the GPS stores the actual course that I ran on any given day.  The information then syncs up with the Nike Plus website, so I have (mostly) accurate data available at all times.  For a sports/statistics nut like me, this is a really cool thing to have. 

But I've also noticed that the Nike Plus app is not entirely accurate.  For example, one afternoon it showed that I ran at a 4:30 mile pace.  While I'd like to believe that was true, it also showed (on the map) that I ran that pace across a lake.  Since I'm not exactly Speedy Jesus, there's clearly a glitch in the program somewhere.

So naturally I had to upgrade to a Garmin Forerunner sports watch.

This does basically the same thing as the Nike app, only without the music.  So now I use both the watch and the app when I run, and it turns out that the Garmin is far more accurate.  Fortunately, there's a "calibrate" feature on the Nike app so I can tweak the Nike distance to match the Garmin distance.

Okay, so now I've had to purchase clothes, an armband for my iPhone, and a watch.  But wait, there's more.

On my longer runs, I definitely need to have water, Gatorade, and energy gels available since there are no "pit stops" in my neighborhood like there are during official races.  To meet this need, I of course went to our local REI store and got what's called a Fuel Belt (kind of sounds like something Speed Racer would have, doesn't it?).  This is more or less a glorified fanny pack with a couple bottles that clip to it.  I fill one bottle with Gatorade (I like the green) and one with water and that usually gets me through 15 or so miles.  The pouch holds about four or five gels.

What are gels?  Glad you asked.

To provide carbs, calories, and energy during a run, and since carrying a plate of spaghetti and meatballs would be messy, runners use a variety of semi-solid supplements.  I've settled on GU Energy Gels, which are pretty much what you'd imagine.  A foil packet filled with flavored goop.  Most of the flavors are pretty good -- Jet Blackberry, Mandarin Orange, Vanilla Bean, etc.  The chocolate, however, leaves something to be desired.  I suck down one of these every four miles or so, for a quick jolt of energy and some quick nutrition.

So now we're at clothes, a watch, an armband for my iPhone, a fuel belt, and a continuous supply of GU.

And now let's talk shoes.

The first pair of actual running shoes I purchased was a pair of New Balances for about 90 bucks.  They were extremely light, kind of comfortable, and when I ran with them, they made the second toe on my left foot turn black and raised a couple of wonderful blisters on the tops of both feet.  Not wanting to end up footless, I did some online research and discovered that the general consensus on "best" brands of running shoes are, in no particular order: Asics, Brooks, and Saucony.

When making my decision, the first question that occurred to me was, "How the hell do you pronounce Saucony?"  The last thing I needed was to walk into Big Five Sporting Goods, ask for a nice pair of size eleven "suck-CONE-ee" running shoes, and have the shoe expert start laughing hysterically.  A bit of web-browsing took me to the correct pronunciation, which is, "SAWK-a-knee."

Glad I looked it up.

After trying on a few pairs of Asics and Brooks, I decided to go with a pair of Saucony Phantoms (which kind of sounds like an Australian soccer team, when you stop to think about it).  And, oh my freaking goodness, what a difference a decent pair of shoes makes.  Suddenly, my feet weren't threatening to go on strike after every run.  Blisters went away, my black toe returned to its normal pasty white color, and I can run long distances in relative comfort.

Next time: Bloody Nipples.  Not the name of a British punk band.

Training runs from the past week:

Tuesday, 12/4, 5AM: 4 miles, 40:31
Thursday, 12/6, 5AM: 5.18 miles, 52:20
Saturday, 12/8, 8AM: 6.21 miles, 58:44
Sunday, 12/9, 7AM: 16.71 miles, 3:01:02

Normally, I wouldn't run on both Saturday and Sunday because I like to have a rest day before and after my long run for the week.  But it's been a very busy week at work, so you do what you gotta do.


Ontario Mills 10K
Christian Okoye Foundation
Ontario, California

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Live and Let Diet

By request, here is an overview of the diet plan I used on my weight loss program.  Bear in mind that I basically created this on my own using bits and pieces of Atkins, and a lot of intuition and common sense (vegetables, good; pizza, bad).  That being said, I am not a doctor.  I can't guarantee that this is the safest way to go about losing weight (though I don't seem to have suffered any negative repercussions -- I was bald and ugly BEFORE I lost weight).  Before starting any dramatic change in your diet, you should probably consult your physician.

That should fulfill my daily dose of hypocrisy.

Also, you should know that I'm sort of unique in that I don't mind eating more or less the same few things every day or week.  I don't need a tremendous amount of variety, which makes it easier for me to stick to a program.  If you're the type who can't stand eating the same foods a few time a week, you might have to be more creative in your planning.

I didn't eliminate carbs, like you pretty much have to do on other programs.  You'll want to make sure that your carbs are "good" ones, though.  Whole grain wheat bread, brown rice, steel cut oatmeal, stuff like that.  White bread is out.  Rolls, cinnamon buns (really?), white rice are no-nos.  Mostly I kept track of calories and kept under 1500 per day.  Also, I was going to the gym five times a week, so that helps burn off quite a bit.  There's a great iPhone app called "My Fitness Pal" that lets you track your food and exercise, and factors in your weight and age to help you stay on target.  Get it.  It is TREMENDOUSLY helpful.

Anyway, here's what I ate.  You'll notice I'm a fan of convenience.  Lots of local and convenient restaurants were part of the program.

For each meal, select just ONE of the options:

- Steel Cut Oatmeal
- Greek Yogurt (Oikos is my favorite, but Chobani isn't bad either)
- Wheat Bagel

- Caesar Salad (low-cal dressing)
- Chef Salad (low-cal dressing)
- Steak and Eggs (from Taco Mi Hacienda which is probably not all that common . . . so you'll have to find a local food joint or make your own.  Very low calorie and filling, one of my favorite choices)
- Subway Club on wheat bread, no cheese, with veggies and mustard only (no mayo, no oil or vinegar)

- Special K Cereal Bar (I highly recommend the chocolatey pretzel flavor)

- Salmon, green beans, small salad
- Steak, broccoli
- Grilled chicken, mixed veggies
- Flame Broiler: Brown rice bowl w/ white meat chicken and green onions
- Chipotle: Burrito bowl w/ brown rice, salsa, corn, and cheese (obviously, suit your own taste here, but avoid the tortillas and go easy on the beans)
- Omelette w/ bacon and low fat cheese

- Almonds
- Pork rinds (I hate them, but my wife made them a fairly regular snack)
- Fruit (not too much though . . . hidden sugars!)

I always made sure to limit carbs to one meal a day.  For example, if I had oatmeal for breakfast, I'd have the salad for lunch, and one of the dinner options without rice.  If I was having Subway for lunch, I made sure to go with yogurt for breakfast and a carbless dinner (omelette, or salmon, etc.).

This is just the basic outline, you can always add your own preferences within these basic guidelines.  Remember, it's mostly about burning more calories than you take in, and avoid the stuff you know you shouldn't be eating anyway.

Cheat Days: We limited ourselves to one "day off" per month to eat whatever we wanted.  What we found is that we didn't want to eat too much.  A couple pieces of pizza, or an In-N-Out burger, usually satisfied the cravings and we were good to go again.

Challenges: I'm not going to lie to you, the first two or three weeks are VERY difficult.  You'll feel hungry quite a bit . . . so drink lots of water.  But then you'll see some results, your body gets used to the change, and it gets a lot easier.  After a couple months, we didn't even want the cheat days anymore.  Besides, you're eating steak, chicken, Subway . . . it's not exactly that "cabbage soup diet" that was all the rage a few years ago.

Exercise: You'll undoubtedly get good results by sticking to a diet plan, but an exercise program will speed up the process.  Experts say that if you have to choose between dieting and exercise, go with a healthy diet.  I'd have to agree with this, because there were a few guys at my gym who were really big when I started, and after almost a year don't look much different.  My guess is that they'll exercise . . . and then go to McDonald's or something.  Still, if you can stick to a diet and even exercise a few days a week (gym, walking, whatever), you'll get better results. 

So while we're at it, here's a sample workout plan (this is before I started the marathon training):

MONDAY: 30 minutes treadmill or elliptical machine, 30-40 minutes weight training (arms/shoulders)
TUESDAY: 30 minutes treadmill or elliptical machine
WEDNESDAY: 30 minutes treadmill or elliptical machine, 30-40 minutes weight training (chest and back)
THURSDAY: 30 minutes treadmill or elliptical machine
SATURDAY: 30 minutes treadmill or elliptical machine, 30-40 minutes weight training (legs and abs)

There are a LOT of different weight training programs to use based on your experience, fitness, and goals.  Go to for sample workouts.

So, um . . . yeah.  That's all there is to it.  I'm not telling you it's easy, and there are no shortcuts.  Just modify things as necessary to fit your lifestyle, and go for it.

Good luck, and if you're about to jump into a diet plan and change your life, I'd love to hear your story!

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