It is my belief that we can become better, happier, and more fulfilled human beings when we give the best of ourselves, and we give of ourselves joyfully. The more we honestly share our experiences of what we are doing to be in service to others, how we are improving our own lives, and how this experience can benefit others, the more we can inspire others to do the same. An upward spiral.

To that end, it is my intent to share my training and racing experience as it happens - from unhealthy, injured, and addicted, to competitive amateur athlete - so that others who can relate may become inspired. Additionally, I want to provide a positive and motivating place where others can share their inspiring personal journeys and promote their cause. If you would like to share your story, please email your story to team@trifundracing.com.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Ironman 70.3 Oceanside 2016 Race Report

The 2016 race season has officially kicked off for me. It has been a long offseason, since I haven't raced since August at Ironman Boulder. I had planned to take an extended break to work on my run, since it was what I struggled with in my races last year.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite get the consistency of running down due to illnesses. I was hit pretty hard early in the year with sickness. First a respiratory cold, then a stomach bug, then the respiratory cold again, then the stomach bug again. This took me out for much of January and early February. Any run gains I had made seemed to have been lost when I started to train consistently again.

I had to expedite my training leading up to Oceanside due to the weeks of illness, so I accepted the base of fitness I had and focused on long endurance at the high aerobic levels. Then I would go into a short two week taper leading to Oceanside. Not ideal, but at least it would kick start my season.

I had a lot of emotions coming into this race. It takes place in my backyard where I do all my training. It would be the first time I would repeat a 70.3, and last year's performance was by far a personal best for me, finishing in 4:44 and 12th in my age group. While I tried to tell myself not to focus on the results, just to have fun and make it a training day (after all, with all of the sickness I didn't have the fitness I had last year), it's hard to not want to compete against your previous results!

Since this was the first race in a long time, and because of the reasons above, I was more nervous for this race than many of my previous races. But when I got nervous, I was able to calm myself by reinforcing that the goal of this race was to focus on strategy and pacing. My tendency last year was to overbike and then blow up on the run. I wanted to see how it felt to UNDER bike and feel good on the run.

The goal was to swim out hard and try to stay with a lead group at least for a while. Then I would cycle at about Ironman pace or a little higher and set up a strong run, which I would feel out as I went.

This year I was really looking forward to starting in one of the earliest waves. In 2015, I started in the last wave, which led to a lot of congestion on the swim, a lot of passing on the bike (which caused a lot of energy to be wasted). Starting in an earlier wave meant a cleaner swim, and a lonely bike (just the way I like it).

Here's how it went:

Swim - 33:51 - New PR

By the time I got to the water's edge, my nerves were calmed. This was pretty typical for me, since most of my nerves are centered around just wanting to start. Now that time was coming. The water was cold, but I had prepared for that, so it wasn't shockingly so. As we sat by the buoy line waiting to start, there was a relatively strong current that seemed to be pulling us out a bit. We had to work a little to stay behind the start line.

It's always an interesting dynamic at the start of these races. Our heads above water, we are all very encouraging of one another, shouting to each other to have a great race, or laughing with each other. But the second that blow horn goes off, it's every man for himself with lots of contact and fighting for space.

I lined up to the far right of the buoy expecting to swim a little wide to avoid the contact, and settle into the buoy line once it thinned out. Once the horn sounded, I gave a quick sprint to stay with the feet of the first row of swimmers. I happened to end up right between a large gentleman on my left, and a very thin gentleman on my right. The man on my right had me a bit worried, as his stroke was very aggressive and wide. More of a scrappy swinging motion. One of those swinging arms to the face would likely break my nose! Since I breathed to the right, I was able to keep an eye on this guy as his sledgehammer hands splashed within inches of my face.

The gap began to narrow and I felt now would be the time to try to serge to the front of this group. Having this instinct makes me happy, since it shows that my confidence is building with regard to my swim. Previously, I would have resigned my position and stopped for a second to find another path behind them.

The surge worked, and I was now in open water as we approached the first turn buoy. The current assist seemed to be significant, since we got to that first turn buoy in no time at all.

Heading into the open water of the channel, we began to feel the swells of the large waves entering the harbor. It made swimming smooth a little more difficult, so that was a cue to increase the turnover and get more strokes in. I was starting to get into the mix with previous waves at this point, and I didn't see many people with light blue caps anymore (my wave). As we rounded the final turn buoy, the fastest guys in the next wave started to catch me. I tried to stick with their pace. No dice.

As we hit the boat launch area for the swim exit, I stood up very easily and was able to find my legs with no problem. I had a solid pace running through transition passing a lot of the people in front of me. I still felt energized, which was a new feeling for me after the swim. This was by far the most comfortable swim I have had in a race to date. Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf.

Bike: 2:29:17 - 4th fastest bike split in Age Group. Moved up to 5th place in 35-39, the highest place I have been in to date

An uneventful transition had led to the start of the bike. I had thought it would be cold for the first part, but it turned out to be rather comfortable. I took the pace really easy getting out to Pendleton, with all of the twists and turns and uneven surfaces. Again, I was really stoked to be in an early wave. Instead of hundreds of people in front of me which I had a chance of passing, I only had about 40-50 (obviously not counting pros!). This made for a very clean and uneventful ride.

Through the campground, I was caught by a couple of guys "working together". Once they passed, I was able to stay at legal distance from them while watching them drafting for most of that section. I noticed that my heart rate was on the very low side, so I was faced with the choice of staying there and giving up speed, or making a huge surge, enough to drop them (I didn't want them to start drafting off of me). I decided to surge, which I did for about 5-10 minutes or so until I was clear again.

Much of the rest of the first half of the ride was paced very conservatively. When I reached the gate at Christianitos, I did a self check. I was feeling great, and decided to be a bit more aggressive on the backside where the hills were located. The climb up the first large hill on was much easier than last year, again attributed to the lack of congestion. Being somewhat alone, I could pace myself up the hill and not have to surge around other people.

The downhills were fun and fast, aside from the 25 mph zone, where I rode the brakes to about 22 mph, just to be safe. Around this time, I started to catch some of the female pros. Another cool side effect of starting in an earlier wave!

Riding down Vandegrift back toward Oceanside, I backed off the power once again to recover a bit from the hills. I was caught by a couple of other people, including a fellow Dimond owner, who shouted "nice bike" as he flew by me. Into transition with a time about 5 minutes slower than last year. However, this seemed to be consistent with the other bike times in my age group. Both years, I had the 4th fastest bike split, but this year was a bit slower. The conditions didn't seem too much different, but I have a theory that perhaps it has something to do with the congestion on the course. Since our age group spent more effort surging to make passes last year, perhaps that is the reason we were faster. Who knows!

Run: 1:36:44 - Run PR

Transition was once again a breeze, aside from shoving Vaseline down my pants in front of a large crowd of people. But I've experienced the alternative and it isn't pretty. It's been my experience that if you're standing around the area of transition, you're bound to see something pretty gross. As a spectator, that's to be expected!

Running out of transition I felt in control of my run. A dialed back pace from what I felt I could run. Visions of mile 3 last year rushed through my head. It was at that time that I experienced painful side stitches that reduced me to walking for a few minutes. I had attributed that to too much nutrition in the early part of the race combined with too fast a pace. I didn't want to repeat that experience.

Again, I was all alone, which was an interesting experience on the run. The only people that were with me were the pros that zoomed by me every once and a while, which was really cool. It's a strange feeling running without seeing anyone in front of you. I had a constant feeling like I had to ask someone if I was going the right direction.

Through the first aid station, I grabbed only water and kept going. Still felt good an in control. I was trying to maintain a 7:15 pace, not too fast and pretty easy to sustain. Sure enough, as I approached mile 3-4, I started getting the stitches again. I backed off the pace a bit and was able to keep moving, but it was still frustrating knowing that I could run faster if it weren't for the side pains. They stuck with me even after the turnaround, and intensified as I passed through mile 5. I had to walk down the hill to get my heart rate down and get them to go away. Finally, they subsided, only sticking around intensely enough to remind me that they would destroy me if I attempted to pick up the pace.

At the halfway point, I started to feel much better, so the goal was going to become "don't slow down". In fact, just as an experiment, I wanted to see if I could push the pace a bit more and then walk the aid stations. The goal was to still average the 7:15-7:30 pace overall, but through a combination of 7 minute miles and walking through aid stations. This worked really well as I continued to feel totally in control.

Much of the rest of the run was uneventful, just trying to keep a controlled run without it getting ugly. Sure enough, I went through the finish line with a 3:30 PR over last year's half marathon, fully 10 minutes faster than the half marathon at Boulder 70.3, and even a few seconds faster than my half marathon PR (which was run while I was sick with one of those stomach bugs). Overall time was 4:47:23, which I was very pleased with, considering the tough start to the training year. It was good enough for 8th place in my age group, which was shocking to me. This was my first time in an Ironman branded race breaking the top 10. Especially at a race that boasts itself as one of the more competitive races, I am tremendously grateful.

From what I understand, even though I didn't stick around for the World Championship roll down ceremony (I can't really afford the trip to Australia in September), I heard that the slots rolled down well past my placing, which means if I were to have chosen to, I could have raced in the 70.3 World Championship this year. That's pretty awesome!

Now as I spend a week off before starting my build toward Ironman Vineman, I have a renewed drive to train well this season and to train smart, with goals to challenge myself and simply give the best of myself. I'm looking forward to what the rest of the year holds.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Embrace the Suck

We've all seen the recent Michael Phelps "Rule Yourself" video, right? If not, here it is. Check it out, it's pretty amazing!

It's also clear that Mr. Phelps is a genetic masterpiece who was made for swimming. Most of the rest of us... not so much. So I decided to make a little parody video just for fun. This is dedicated to the triathletes, adult onset swimmers, and other people who challenge themselves every day to better themselves. Enjoy!

Yes, I know, the video quality is not great, and the audio is pretty horrible. My apologies for that, but time and patience led way to a few sacrifices in quality. Regardless, it was fun to make, and I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Adult Onset Swimmer's Dilemma, or How I Had a Swimming Breakthrough and Jumped into the Fast Lane

If you know anything about my history, you know that swimming is my weakness (to say the least). You would also know, by reading other posts in this blog, that I spent a lot of time obsessing about this and how I could improve.

During the first year of learning to swim, it was exceptionally frustrating. With the exception of my first Ironman (which was a current assisted, salt water, wetsuit swim), I was logging slow times in all my races. In the pool I wasn't faring much better. Starting out, I swimming well over 2:00 per hundred yards for sustained efforts, and struggling to stay afloat. With heavy volume, I was able to get this down to just over 1:50/100, but I still didn't have confidence or speed I wanted to really be competitive.

The result, of course, was that I exerted much more energy than I should have in my race swims. Then on the bike, I would have to play catch up, which killed a lot more of my energy. Needless to say my run suffered. All because I couldn't hang on the swim.

I spent hours combing the swimming message boards, watching videos on YouTube, trying to discover "the secret" to faster swimming.

There was no shortage of information, of course, but most of it was conflicted. Some would say to focus on the "glide", and become smooth and graceful in the water. Others would say to increase turnover and power through short intervals to get faster. Both pieces of advice had their merit, but each also had their downsides.

For the "focus on glide" group, skeptics would point out that gliding creates a "dead zone", where you actually slow down before you can propel yourself forward. In practice too, it's difficult to maintain a "glide" when you feel like you're sinking, thus poor form may develop. This, combined with the slow rate of turnover, would result in diminishing returns, and one wouldn't be able to become truly "fast" in the water.

The "focus on turnover and fast intervals" crowd was typically the "fish", who have been swimming since a young age. They have been conditioned to handle heavy volume, and already have good swim form, so this approach may not work for the new swimmer.

After trying both methods and not seeing much of any results, I began to realize that perhaps both of these approaches were neglecting what I referred to in the title as the adult onset swimmer's dilemma: that adults who are learning to swim have not had the basic fundamentals of swimming developed in them from an early age which would make them feel comfortable in the water. Regardless of the swimming technique they employ above, they will not reach their true potential.

At least this was the case for me.

The solution for me became to take a hundred steps back and start from the beginning. The very first step would be to learn how to become comfortable in the water, without even taking a single stroke. Once comfortable, I would begin to take slow and deliberate steps to incorporate swim strokes and increase turnover while staying comfortable in the water. The result a pretty dramatic improvement in speed over the course of an offseason. Even more dramatic results have been made over the course of a couple years.

Below is a list of the steps I took to improve my swimming. By no means am I a fish, but I would say that I'm as good as I want to be at swimming, as long as I can translate this speed to the open water (which is another challenge in and of itself). Before I took these steps, volume alone had taken me from a 2:00+ per hundred swimmer to a 1:50/100 swimmer, although not comfortable. Taking these steps led me to comfortably swimming sub 1:30/100 paces, and even sprinting 100's in under 1:20 (my fastest 100 so far is a 1:17).

Again, this is just what worked for me, but may not work for everyone. But this is some advice that I hope can help someone who may be struggling with swimming (note: I don't go into "proper form" here, since more experienced people can weigh in on that topic, and do in multiple areas around the internet. This simply lists ways in which on can more easily apply and put into practice that form for optimal improvement over time).

  1. Start from scratch. What worked best for me to get comfortable in the water was to order the Total Immersion DVD set. Total Immersion helps people to get comfortable in the water before tackling harder concepts like breathing, taking strokes, etc. Their method falls within the "glider" category listed above, but it's important to note that learning these skills is simply a starting point. Speed and turnover come later, once we can swim comfortably. I simply followed the 10 lessons and got comfortable in the pool. A small, but very worthwhile investment in your swimming success. After a few weeks, I found I was comfortable enough to taper down my use of these drills and increase my swimming volume.
  2. As I began to incorporate swimming into my workouts, I would start my warm up focusing on balance using things like the pencil drill, making sure the top of my head, my shoulders, and my butt were all out of the water. This would help me find my alignment from head to foot in the water, making sure I wasn't dragging my legs, or digging my head.
  3. I would also use my warmup as an opportunity to focus on my balance and rotation. To do this, I used a swim snorkel (so that I did not have to focus on breathing to the side), and took slow strokes concentrating on my form, keeping my body balanced and aligned, and focusing on rotating during each stroke. This worked very well to test out what worked and what didn't as far as rotating, catching, and pulling. Granted, you will go slower when you're wearing a swim snorkel, but you also pick up valuable new techniques. I continue to use the snorkel during the warm up set of every swim I do.
  4. I watched a lot of YouTube videos of distance swimmers, and try to mimic their techniques.
  5. I filmed myself every few weeks to analyze my form, both above water and under water. I was also fortunate to get some good feedback on these videos from my coach at Smart Triathlon Training. The first time I filmed myself, I was shocked. While I felt like I was swimming smoothly in the water, watching myself as I swam was very revealing. The small changes I was able to make after viewing my swimming form made a pretty dramatic difference in my swim times. Make sure that you film yourself when you're fresh and when you're tired, that way you get a good perspective of how your swim deteriorates with fatigue. That will really tell you what you need to work on.
  6. The pull buoy became a very good friend. There is much debate as to whether or not the pull buoy is a crutch or something to use frequently, but I tend to side with the latter, especially after reading this post by triathlon coach, Brett Sutton. For those of us who are adult onset swimmers who are not interested in leading the packs in the water, and are content with finishing close enough to the front of the swim to be competitive on the bike and run, the pull buoy can be a very useful tool. I found a number of benefits to using a pull buoy with great frequency. a) I was able to swim more volume without fatiguing, b) I was able to maintain my form for longer sets, c) I was able to focus on technique during my swims, and d) I was able to increase my turnover over time (while maintaining the same number of strokes per length), and thus increase my speed. I tend to only use the pull buoy for longer sets over 300 yards. If you're looking for races with a wetsuit swim, the pull buoy may not be as much of a crutch as you think. Even if your A race is a non-wetsuit swim, you can still benefit from early season endurance builds using the pull buoy, and then get more race specific closer to the race. 
  7. After all of the above were in place, I then worked on increasing my speed with short, hard intervals. Typically, this consisted of 25s, 50s, and 100s (mostly 50s) on longer rest intervals so that I could make full recovery. In a typical week of swimming 4-5 times per week, I would do at least 2 speed sessions of 1,000 to 2,000 yards total. My go to speed set has been 250 warm up (with snorkel), 250 pull, 10x50 hard, 5x100 hard (add 10x25 hard with 250 warm down to make an even 2,000).
Happy swimming!

Monday, February 8, 2016

How I spent the Offseason

One of the main things that I've learned about triathlon over the past few years is that consistency is one of the keys to performance improvements.

My plan for the off season was to focus on my run. After seeing dramatic improvement in my bike, only to struggle through my runs in each race last year, I new it was going to be necessary to work on my weaknesses, and scale back my strengths. So, I spent most of the winter running my butt off.

I utilized a combination of the BarryP plan (of Slowtwitch fame) and Jack Daniels running plan (to build speed). Just a note, Jack Daniels is a famous running coach, not the famous whiskey distiller. I've tried Jack Daniels as a solution in the past, but as you know that solution.... didn't work.

As a goal, I chose to race a half marathon on January 11th to test my speed with the goal of breaking 1:30. My previous best "open" half marathon was a 1:50ish, but I bested that in a half Ironman 3 times in a row by running a 1:40. I figured if I really made improvements, I would be able to beat a 1:30.

The training went great. I really felt myself becoming stronger as a runner, and was consistently putting out 50-60 mile weeks. Unfortunately, as the New Year hit, I was blasted with the flu. First one round of bad sinus and chest stuff, and then a round of stomach stuff. It was when the stomach flu came on that my race day came.

I was unable to get even close to my goal of sub 1:30, and clocked a painful 1:37, which consisted of quite a bit of walking. This was the first race I participated in that just wasn't fun. That said, I chose to look for the win, and recognized that I still finished a half marathon in a very respectable 1:37 while fighting a stomach flu. That, at least, would give me the confidence to know that I was still a stronger runner.

Round 3 of sickness came a couple weeks later, so as far as "consistency" is concerned, it was not the best start to 2016.

So the plan now is to keep my running fitness up, and humble myself on the bike. I rode a couple of sub- 5 hour Ironmans last year. I can afford to sacrifice 10 minutes on the bike to start the run fresher. And that's just what I'm going to do this year.

I have learned to love the offseason as a time of unstructured living. Training has become a bit of an obsession, and while that is a good outlet for me to have, it's also good to balance that out with a little bit of nonconformity. To really start missing the training, so that I love it when I come back to it. And now that I'm back to it, I am loving it again.

No more expectations this year, just out to have a good time and enjoy life, and take on the unexpected as it comes with a positive attitude.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Optimist Prime

In a world of negativity, it's easy to be cynical.

It's really a "chicken or the egg" kind of debate as to whether there is so much negativity in the world because everyone is so cynical, or everyone is cynical because there is so much negativity in the world. But the fact remains.

Now, I have to catch myself here, because I too am being cynical by implying that "the world is a negative place", that I don't trust the world to be inherently "good". I'm doing so to demonstrate a point: It's easy to be cynical. I couldn't even get through one sentence of a post on optimism without being cynical.

Why is it easy to be cynical? There are many reasons and many misconceptions. Here are my thoughts.

  1. It's a defense mechanism. By assuming the worst, we think we can soften the blow of a more undesirable outcome. For example, by saying something like "So and so will just let me down", it is assumed that we won't be as negatively affected if we actually are let down. 
  2. It protects us from vulnerability. Perhaps this is just rewording number 1, but it's an important point. For many people, their natural instinct is put a guard up, and protect against vulnerability. But on the contrary, experts including Brene Brown demonstrate that vulnerability can lead us to deeper connections and a more empowered life.
  3. Our beliefs and actions are shaped by what we choose to see. When we see negativity on the news or in daily life, we begin to look for the worst in people, instead of looking for the best. 
  4. Strangely, cynicism is often associated with intelligence. If people want to seem intelligent, they should question people's motives. Again, I'm not convinced.
There's a dangerous and destructive result of cynicism. It shapes our perspective, and therefore our reality. We begin to live in a negative and cynical world. Worst of all, we begin to bring people down with us.

It may seem counter-intuitive based on the reasons listed above, but it has been my experience that taking the opposite action and focusing on optimism can dramatically change your life for the better. 

Being optimistic is not easy. It takes work, especially as we have to overcome a mountain of negativity. We have to absorb criticism from the cynics for our positive outlook. We have to become vulnerable. We have to overcome our own preconceptions. 

It's hard work being an optimist, but it's worth it. As optimists, we live in a world where we know anything is possible. We are more joyful and grateful for all of the beauty of the world that surrounds us. We grow in faith. Doors are opened to us because we believe we "can". Opportunities we never even considered are presented to us because we open our hearts to new ideas. Our new found perspective becomes our reality, and the world around us becomes more beautiful.

I used to be leery of Mr. Rogers (yes, the one on PBS). There had to be something wrong with a man who spent is adult life with other people's children and played with dolls all day. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood"? What are you hiding in that closet with your collection of red sweaters?

But Fred Rogers was an optimist. The kind who made an incredible contribution to the world because of his outlook. As a cynic, it was my wish to tear him down. I'm glad that I don't have to live like that anymore.

There is a Fred Rogers quote that floats around the internet from time to time which perfectly describes the necessary work to shape a positive outlook in the midst of cynicism and negativity. 

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” - Fred Rogers

When faced with negativity and cynicism we tend to join the mob. But instead I would challenge everyone to glorify the good. It is not just a mental exercise, but a way to change our lives. To turn us into optimists. To help us love our neighbors.

Here are a few ways to shape an optimistic attitude today. 
  1. Recognize and acknowledge where negativity and cynicism exists in your life.
  2. Write down 10 reasons why you are grateful today.
  3. Meditate for 10 to 20 minutes.
  4. Give at least 3 people a genuine compliment.
  5. Spend some time with a fellow optimist.
  6. Turn off the news. Seriously, turn it off right now. If something important happens, you'll hear about it. The rest is just gossip.
  7. Unfollow negative or gossip sites/friends. You don't need to unfriend them, but you don't need to read their negativity either.
  8. NEVER read the comments.
  9. Read one really dumb joke per day.
  10. In the words of Mrs. Rogers, "Look for the helpers."
Today it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, and I'm glad you're my neighbor.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Great Vegetable Experiment

I have a confession to make. I consume a plant based diet.

This is not to say that I am a vegan or a vegetarian. These folks seem to have adopted the phrase "plant based" to pertain solely to them, but I think the term more appropriately describes our relationships with fruits and vegetables. To that end, I extol the power of vegetables as a primary staple in the human diet.

Let's get one thing straight. I have always disliked eating vegetables. Most of them taste bland, and some are downright disgusting. The closest thing I got to a vegetable growing up was pizza sauce and ketchup. If I had my way, I would be eating cheeseburgers (minus the veggies), pizza (minus the veggies), and ice cream (probably shouldn't have veggies in the first place) on a daily basis.

Despite that, I now understand the power vegetables have when it comes to general health, athletic fitness, and overall happiness. They are a tremendous source of energy, which in turn gives us the capacity to perform better and feel better.

If you think about it, being "plant powered" is the closest that a person can come to consuming and harnessing the power and energy of the sun. Plants utilize the energy of the sun, through photosynthesis, to produce energy in the form of sugar. When we eat plants, we are consuming "sun sugar".

Wow, Carl Segan was right. We are all made of "star stuff".

Okay, so maybe that's a bit of cosmic gobbledygook, but you see my point. The vitamins, fiber, and energy from plants is the most natural form of energy. Homans are evolutionarily equipped to break down these foods and harness their nutrients and utilize them in an efficient manner.

Contrast that with the highly processed, nutrient void foods many people have in their diets. These foods do not break down easily. We absorb far more toxic ingredients through these processed foods than actual nutrients. In addition, they contain sugar on steroids, which contributes to heart problems, diabetes, and the buildup of fat we all love to complain about.

Don't get me wrong, I love me some Peanut M&Ms, and indulge from time to time. However, vegetables are now a primary staple in my diet. A food I primarily eat for function, yet has provided me such a great benefit - from being more fit, healthier, happier, and more energetic - that I actually miss my vegetables when I don't get to eat them. Even though I've always hated veggies, I love veggies.

Now the hard part. I believe that it is necessary to eat a whole lot of vegetables. Veggies should be (and are for me) the primary source of food for any person. For over a year, they were for me, but then it dropped off for a while. Until recently.

During the year when I first started getting very healthy, I was eating vegetables with every meal. My morning shake had spinach in it. For dinner I had Brussels sprouts and asparagus. On top of that, I had a large green shake for my afternoon snack.

I felt absolutely great during that year. I was performing at new levels. My blood pressure was perfect. My cholesterol was perfect. Zero anxiety or stress. Plenty of energy. Lots of joy. But I started thinking that maybe it was overkill. Perhaps I was taking in too many veggies, and I should cut it back.

So I went to having just my concentrated shake in the afternoon. As you now know, I hate veggies, so getting them in all at once was preferable to spreading them out over the course of the day. There was a noticeable change. While I still felt "okay", I didn't feel fantastic as I had. So again I made the choice to start eating more veggies more frequently throughout the day. Within a short time I was once again feeling like Superman.

And wouldn't you know it, I realized that I don't hate veggies after all!

Here are some tips on how to become plant-based, and add more fruits and veggies into your daily life.

  1. Eat some veggies at every meal and during snacks. This means every meal. For breakfast, make a smoothie with some spinach or kale in it. For lunch, throw some bell peppers and tomatoes in your omelette. For dinner, stir fry up some zucchini and squash. Eat a carrot "just 'cause". Whatever it is, a veggie has it's place on your plate. What this does is not only imprints healthy habits, but it also assures that you are having effective distribution of nutrient rich foods throughout the day, rather than "loading up" at just one meal. This keeps you energized and healthy at all times.
  2. Make shopping for veggies fun. Literally every shape and color of the rainbow is represented in the produce aisle of the supermarket. What an exciting opportunity to try something new! It's almost like going to an art store to pick up some supplies. What type of picture do you want to paint today? There are numerous combinations of meals you can make with each vegetable. Become inspired! Additionally, there are a number of produce co-ops which will deliver farm fresh fruits and vegetables to your home. Each week is like a new discovery of different types of foods.
  3. Start drinking a veggie smoothie every day. This one is great for those of you who, like me, don't like the taste of vegetables. It is easier and quicker to drink a salad than to eat it. "But Adam, that sounds disgusting!". Well, you may be right, if the smoothie is only veggies. But it's amazing what a banana or apple can do to improve the taste!
  4. Craving sugar? Eat an apple. Still craving sugar? Eat another apple. Don't just give into the temptation for ice cream (although, indulging every once in a while is not a crime!). Instead, when you're craving sugar, eat an apple. If it helps, tell yourself that you'll have the ice cream after you finish the apple. Then, if you're still craving the sugar, repeat the process. Your mind is trying to trick you into eating the sugar on steroids. It is important to beat your mind at its own game! Eat as many apples as it takes. No doctor has ever said "He died from eating too many apples."
I challenge you to experiment with eating more vegetables. More than you think is necessary. Just see how well you begin to feel.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Pitfalls of Getting Better

I'm really slow, and it's really annoying. 

In 2014 I ran two sub 4 hour marathons in both of my Ironman races. Over the offseason I expected that I would improve for 2015. 

It didn't. In fact, I had poorer performances in my marathons at each of my two Ironmans this year. I knew I could get better, but instead I got worse. Not from lack of trying.

My training had me pacing at below 8 minute miles, which "should" have resulted in a sub 3:30 marathon. And now after both Ironmans, despite feeling fully recovered, I'm now pacing at over 10 minute miles. 

It is really annoying.

But that is my ego talking, which it's a pitfall of getting better.

When we're congratulated for a job well done, rewarded for a great performance, or reach a new milestone, it is easy for our egos to have us believe that we can no longer fall below that new benchmark, and when we do, it is catastrophic failure. 

Don't get me wrong, we should always celebrate achieving something great. Our accomplishments are worth celebrating. However, allowing our egos to get in the way will quickly move us from celebrating to thinking of what more we can accomplish. We become greedy.

It is ironic that we can gain a bit of humility, recognize ego as one of our shortcomings, and strive to better ourselves to remove that shortcoming, and as a result of getting better, reintroduce ego into our lives. 

This battle with ego is not a battle we can win, it is a continuous challenge. Despite our egotistical nature of wanting to "win" everything, we have to acknowledge this ot as a battle with ego, but instead an exercise in humility. It is a chance to continue getting better, even in failure. 

I'm not sure how or if my running will improve over this offseason, but I will control what I can, which is to put one foot in front of the other as fast as my body will allow. I will try my best to not allow myself to fall into the pit of ego, but try to practice humility through failure and success.