Extra Life Triathlon Fitness

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Monday, May 27, 2013


Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hi
One of the clear pieces of evidence to me that there is a God is the beauty that has the opportunity to exist in this world. I say "opportunity" because I believe God's hand may not necessarily direct specific outcomes, but instead provides a "nudge". The will of man can glorify, exploit, or contradict God's vision. Nothing exemplifies this more than the story of the islands of Hawaii. 

The islands were born violently through millions of years volcanic eruptions creating a desolate but fertile, nutrient-rich landscape. Seeds took root and evolved into the lush landscape we see today, which has fortunately been preserved by humans since inhabitants first arrived. However, through those centuries many many battles (violent and nonvoilent) were fought for control of these islands. There is a rich history of bloodshed and loss, but the culture survives, and so too does the natural beauty. A telling contrast of God's Will and man's will.

This vacation to Kauai has been a great and welcome departure from the routine. It has been great to get away with the family and enjoy the kids outside the home environment for a change. As I celebrate my 34th birthday tomorrow, I can reflect on the very positive 33rd year I had on this Earth. I vowed shortly before I turned 33 to do my best everyday to wake up and ask for God's Will to be done in my life. I have certainly not been perfect with this, as I still want to be in control. But I have improved, and I've seen a noticable connection with God. Where previously God was just a blurry image of something I wanted Him to be, day by day as I improve my conscious contact with Him, He becomes clearer. I begin to experience my relationship with Him, along with serendipity, and peace. It's my second and more tangible piece of evidence that there is a God. Now as I enter another year, I hope only to improve that relationship even more, and be as much of a blessing to others as I can be. 

Sarah and Zack in one of the "man-made" attractions

I have really had to work on my humility and acceptance during this trip. As I continue to train, I have had to accept the fact that I am without a bike during the trip. Not too concerning as I can get back to it pretty rapidly once I get home. I have also had to find a place to do some swimming. It would seem that this would be an easy one since this is, in fact, an island. However, this week has seen abnormally large swells, and attempts at ocean swims have been met with fairly quick exhaustion and little distance. Fortunately, I am getting challenging ocean workouts, which is getting me comfortable with swimming in open water.

I am having the hardest time being patient with and accepting my running performance here. It seems every little change in climate dramatically affects my pace and heart rate. This was true in Tucson, Lake Tahoe, and now in Hawaii. I am finding that I am about a minute off my pace. This is largely due to the fact that I have to acclimate to the climate, which could take a couple weeks to do. The high heat, humidity, intense sun, and wind all affect my performance. This is an ominous realization as I have signed up for a race in Cabo San Lucas in March (avg. temperature is 80-90), and I'll be coming from Southern California (avg. temperature is 60-65). Needless to say, I have had a number of inappropriate outbursts as my heartrate begins to rise through 143 and I'm at a 10 minute per mile pace. 

That is part of the process of becoming stronger, working through the most challenging times and not giving up. I equate it to putting a donut on a baseball bat; once I come to the plate, I swing faster and harder. I anticipate that once I get home, I may be faster, but if not, I'll keep working. Humility in all cases builds strength and character, but giving up does nothing but invite bad habits to resurface. So I'll keep on running. Right foot, left foot. Breathe in, breathe out. Let go, let God. 

34. Bring it on.

               Marie, Sarah, and I after dinner

            Trail around the Grand Hyatt Kauai

                                       Trail through the Kauai Coffee Plantation

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Aloha 'Oe

I am a lucky dude. Lucky that my family and I are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get away on a trip to Kauai, lucky my parents are so generous as to share some of their beautiful home with us, and lucky that my kids are quiet and occupied on a 5 hour flight (knocking on wood, we're only an hour in). 

The hassle of trying to travel with kids can't be effectively described, but many of you know firsthand. The excessive packing, the crying, trying to get through security without being shamed by some solitary business man. "Yes, sir I know you are the master of business travel, and we all bow down to you, but please have some patience while I try to wrangle up my two year old who doesn't understand why some woman in blue wants to inspect his milk". But additional hassles created by "the Man" don't help. Apparently, the TSA will allow regular milk to pass through security, but not strawberry milk. This is an attack on our individual liberties to enjoy strawberry goodness! 

But enough complaining, everyone knows that nightmare. I admit that I too played a part in the overloaded baggage. I brought along a number of gadgets to fuel my addiction to data. One of these gadgets is the Garmin GPS watch, which delivers to your wrist real time data, such as pace, heart rate, elevation, cadence, box scores, shopping lists, and winning lottery tickets. Okay not all of that is true, but it is a pretty nifty tool to keep track of all your workouts. After I finish a swim, bike, or run, I can download the data directly to their website for all sorts of reports that may help me improve (or at least help me know if I'm getting any better or worse). 

I also brought a gadget that is more just for fun. I brought along my GoPro so that I can make neat montage videos of me looking like an idiot. That's been kind of fun strapping it to various parts of my bike and body to get some different shots. It's interesting how much more friendly people are to you when you have a camera strapped to your head. 

I'm looking forward to running and swimming on Hawaii, as there is no shortage of beautiful scenery (scenery which I will attempt to capture and post here. Unfortunately, I will have to stick with a stationary bike for the time being, since the roads are narrow, and the bike rentals are expensive. 

I'm also looking forward to some good food. While I'm improving my diet, it's important to note that I am taking these measures as much as possible. That's not to say I'm "cheating", although some would call it that. I want to avoid being "that guy" who brings his own dinner to a restaurant, or tries to modify the entire menu just to fit my narrow diet guidelines. I'm still of the mindset that a little flexibility won't kill me. It also helps me to avoid being an arrogant snob. Besides, this island is filled with healthy eating, even if I do plan on doing a swan dive into a plate filled with shredded kalua pig.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Too Many, But Not Enough

I wanted to take an opportunity to highlight one of the charities I will be racing for next March. Thus far it is the only charity listed, but not from lack of trying to find others. I would like to have a total of three that I will be racing for, and I will profile the other two at a later date (once I find them!). I will profile one later in this post.

I find it is important for me not to train and compete for purely selfish reasons (although I am first to admit that a lot of selfishness went into deciding to do so!). If my ego gets in the way, it defeats the purpose and the method of how I want to improve myself; to be healthy, happy, and in service. I want to raise funds for worthy causes during the process and share my story so that I can be constantly reminded of the transformation I hope to achieve, and share the absolute joys of a healthy lifestyle, lest I fall into old habits and let my ego take control, then I will not be satisfied with any results, and the important aspects will fall by the wayside. That has proven destructive for me in the past.

I know I have been a bit oblique with these statements thus far, so I'll clarify in the spirit of honesty. Much of the reason as to why I have considered myself an unhealthy person is rooted in the fact that I am an alcoholic. It's not easy to admit because it holds such a negative social stigma, and I don't like to admit when I don't have control over something. I drank heavily to ease pain, anxiety, depression, and anger, all of which were exacerbated by the heavy drinking. This of course led to a general lack of care for my physical body and spiritual well being. My thought process was "I was already doing damage to myself, why use toothpicks to rebuild a still burning house?" Furthermore, it was out of my control. This was the insanity by which I lived. Obsession, fed by fear, accompanied by physical exhaustion and spiritual void.

I say all this not to bring down what I want to be a positive experience, but to honestly share a part of myself that I tried to control and keep to myself for a long time. I also want to demonstrate that I found hope where I felt only hopelessness. That in recovery I have the capability to do something positive and extreme that I would have never thought possible, nor had the motivation to see through (by the way, I want to make clear that this is not substitute for recovery or treatment, only a supplement I am using after some time in active recovery). For me this has been a positive supplement to recovery in many ways (I will reserve these for a future blog post).

There are those too who face greater challenges. My problems for the most part were of my own making, and I am fortunate to have the tools to lift myself up. Some don't have this luxury, and I believe we are obligated to help as we are able.

Which brings me to Compassion International (you can go directly to my donor page here). Compassion began as a relief organization back in the 1950's with the purpose of providing aid to orphaned children of the Korean war. Today, it has operations all over the world, taking a sustained approach to child development in areas of the world where poverty is most severe. Compassion offers individual child sponsorship (for $38 per month to help support the child's diet, medical care, and education), as well as broader programs to support local medical care and education. The sponsorship option is really great because it gives you an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with a child from another part of the world. Especially having kids of our own, sponsorship has been a very rewarding experience for all of us.

Child Evangelism

Compassion International is a four star rated charity on Charity Navigator. Check out their website for more information.

As I mentioned, I will be adding two more charities within the coming weeks. There are quite a few sites that make this process fairly easy. I am looking into a site called Razoo. Here individuals set up their own fundraisers with any charity they choose, and Razoo handles the transaction/processing.

Donations to charities posted on this website can be made at any time, and are very much appreciated. Think of how wonderful it would be to start this thing from zero (literally and figuratively), and achieve our goals of fully funding these pledges. I would like to believe it might start a positive chain reaction, where others might start fundraising for causes they believe in, and improve themselves in the process. In a culture that feeds on negativity, positive action is a welcome comfort. At the very least we can poke a few holes in the darkness and let some light shine in. I recognize that it's bold to assume that this can be achieved through an insignificant and mostly unread chronicle of a crazy person, but a small gesture has more of a chance to have an impact than no gesture at all.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Ironman Cabo Update!

I just learned through their Facebook page that the Ironman Cabo will now have a flatter bike course. This makes me happy. Instead of heading inland from San Jose del Cabo uphill toward the airport (and through the hot desert), we will instead be doing three laps between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. I'm guessing the race coordinators saw the 41% DNF (did not finish) rate, the exceptionally long bike times for those that did finish, and the comments about the bike course on the internet (most claiming that it was one of the most difficult bike courses on the circuit, with over 6,000 ft. of climbing).

Now I'm just hoping that they'll do something about the heat and the wind...


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Distance

Orange County Half Marathon Race Report:

Marie and I getting ready to race
Goal Race Time: 1:45:00
Actual Race Time: 1:49:45
Pace: 8:23 min/mile

It's going to sound like I'm making a lot of excuses for missing my target for this run (and let's face it, I am), but for the sake of saving face, let's call these "excuses" "learning experiences". After all, it was the first race for me this year, and I have a lot of room for improvement. Also, it may appear that I am painting the experience in a negative light. On the contrary we had a blast, and can't wait to do it again, but the stories about what went wrong are far more entertaining. These are also the experiences we can learn from going forward. But just so I'm clear (before I start ranting), it was a very fun race.

The day started early, as the race start time was 6:15 am. They asked us to be at the Orange County Fairgrounds at 5:30 sharp at "Corral #1" to load on to shuttles to take us to the race start at Fashion Island (the fact that they called it a "corral" is really telling). We should have expected a complete lack of coordination on the part of the organizers and planned accordingly, but we chose to be lemmings this day and follow the rules.

Standing at the end of a line that stretched along the entire circumference of the fairgrounds, I recognized the impossibility of shuttling 10,000 people more than 10 miles away via school buses within a 45 minute time frame. We began to realize that we wouldn't make it to the start at the beginning of the race, thus I would not be able to join the 1:45 pace group. First challenge of the day, but that's alright. The time does not start until I cross the start line. It occurred to me while we were standing there that this was not a logistical failure at all. I feel that the organizers planned (and probably rightfully so) to trickle groups of people in in a more manageable way, most people getting to the start after the gun. Thus, 3-4000 people starting at the correct start time makes a much better photo op than 10,000 people flooding the streets, bottle-necking the start line. Unfortunately for some of the faster runners arriving late, this means zigzagging through people on the course.

Bomb sniffing dogs - an ominous reminder of what happened in Boston a few weeks earlier. Fortunately, Keanu Reeves  was not present for this bus adventure
The bus ride (and the accompanying smell) brought back bad memories of bullies and uncomfortable silences with crushes. Fortunately it was short lived and we were dropped off about a quarter mile from the race start. This gave us an opportunity to do a quick warm up before getting to the race start. As expected the start line was now empty, aside from our bus group, some teamsters breaking down equipment, and piles of litter and clothing. I must admit we crossed the start line a little hastily, as I didn't check my heart rate before hand, and I struggled to start my iTunes and mapmyrun. About a quarter mile up the hill at Fashion Island and I finally looked at my heart rate, which was about 20 beats per minute above where I wanted it at this point. As my paces will show below, I was not running too fast, so I think the heart rate was probably due to lack of sufficient warm up, nerves, and anxiety about getting to the start line.

The race course itself is actually a well designed and beautiful course. The first half is mostly downhill, which makes for a fast course. The second half is relatively flat with a couple of pretty short but sizable hills. As I mentioned, it starts at Fashion Island, exits out to MacArthur for a lengthy downhill to PCH. It then meanders through Corona del Mar and along Bayside Drive. The course ascends Dover Road and then travels along the Back Bay, shooting out at Irvine Ave, and then up side streets, terminating at the fairgrounds. I think the half marathon was the better deal, as the full marathon did exactly the same course, but instead of turning into the fairgrounds, proceeded into Santa Ana for 13 more miles of fun(?).

With the 1:45 pace group about an hour ahead of me at the beginning, I knew I was pretty much on my own. One of the benefits I wanted to get from running with that pace group was the organic "pull" I would get from pacing stronger runners. Unfortunately, the opposite occurred and I was behind slower runners. The crowds were impenetrable at many points in the course, and I found myself zigzagging constantly to pass crowds. Every time I did this my heart rate would spike, so I just couldn't relax.

I was extremely impressed by the crowd support along the course. We went through a number of neighborhoods, where people were standing outside, drinking coffee and cheering us on. They could have easily been irritated by a barrage of runners waking their kids and littering up their streets, but they chose to keep it positive. Kudos to them.

As I mentioned, my heart rate was much too elevated for most of the race. Based on my training, I would have liked to have seen my speed at the beginning better reflect what my heart rate was telling me. I was in the high end of zone 2 (between 150 and 160) during the first third of the race. During the second third I was in zone 3 (between 160 and 170). The last 3 to 4 miles I was in zone 4, and reaching what was supposed to be my max heart rate. I recognized pretty early that my heart rate was not going to cooperate due to my inability to relax, so I mostly focused on perceived exertion.

What was the effect of running this way? Many of us know it all too well, and I'm feeling it now, three nights later. Legs that feel like a semi drove over them, complete and utter fatigue, and the feeling that I never want to do that again (that feeling at least escaped me pretty quickly after the race). This reminded me of what it was like to train like this in every effort. Good Lord, how did I survive? I barely did.

I finished the race in 1:49:45, less than a minute faster than my previous best, but a personal best nonetheless. Below are my 1 mile split times as measured by map-my-ride. It measured a tad long, as I was doing a lot of weaving, and I turned it off a bit late. Plus it's a $2 app and is likely not extremely accurate, but it's clear enough to see that I ran the second half much faster than the first (despite the fast downhill on the first half).

1 mi 08:42 min/mi
2 mi 08:10 min/mi
3 mi 08:33 min/mi
4 mi 08:22 min/mi
5 mi 07:53 min/mi
6 mi 08:31 min/mi
7 mi 08:09 min/mi
8 mi 08:19 min/mi
9 mi 07:48 min/mi
10 mi 07:44 min/mi
11 mi 07:18 min/mi
12 mi 06:55 min/mi
13 mi 07:11 min/mi
13.9 mi 07:34 min/mi

This tells me I could have been faster off the start if I was more relaxed. It also tells me that I gave it everything I had during the last half, and I'm proud of that. To see that I still had enough in the tank to post a sub-7 minute mile and 5 consecutive sub 8 minute miles makes me feel great (not physically, of course, but you know what I'm saying). Despite my complaints about having to pass tons of runners, not locking in my heart rate, and that I didn't hit my goal, I was still able to post a personal best. And post that best after only about 2 and a half months of training from absolutely unfit. Also, to achieve this with relatively "easy" training. That tells me that something's working with what I'm doing now. Makes me think "what if I could post 13 consecutive sub-8 minute miles? How about sub-7?"

I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'm obsessive, that's what I do. For the time being I'll get back to humility, patience, and acceptance. Back within my heart rate training, and hopefully I'll hit my goals next race. I also want to say that I'm proud of my wife, Marie for finishing this race. After all, she inspired me to do this one in the first place which got the snowball rolling.

A couple more notes about this race. First, the parking situation was a nightmare. It literally took us longer to get out of the parking lot than it did to run the race (that's what happens when you wrap the race course around the parking structure and finish it at the main entrance). That was the least enjoyable experience of the entire day. Second, there were camera people everywhere snapping photos that they will eventually sell online. If there are any that were taken of me that look ridiculous (and if the price isn't too crazy), I will post the worst one here just for laughs. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fitter, Happier

Santa Ana River Trail - One of my early morning runs/bikes. Lot's of protein on this trail (flies)

This week is a "mini-taper" training week, since tomorrow is my first race this year (OC Half Marathon), which I am running with my wife. This "mini-taper" has been a bit of a welcome relief to the training volume I have put in recently, as I have been able to sleep in a bit, and my butt doesn't hurt from miles on the bike. Being that this first race will be the first opportunity to test my speed, I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss how I train and how I feel about it.

I've only done two half marathons in the past (both in Huntington Beach, in 2007 and 2012). The training plan I had for the first was very simple. Run as frequently as I could, as fast as I could, for as long as I could. Needless to say this was very exhausting. I was always tired, and always dealing with some type of injury such as shin splints, knee pain, back pain, headaches, etc. However, that's how I understood the training to be working. After all, no pain, no gain, right? It certainly didn't seem "fun", but to some extent it worked. It got me to the finish line in a time of 1:52. About an 8:30 pace or so.

The training for the second race became a little more complex. While I was still running as frequently as I could, as fast as I could, for as long as I could, I added a little "doughnut on the baseball bat" so to speak. I was drinking a lot during this time and was often hungover. Apparently I am a glutton for many things, including punishment. By the time of the race I was about three weeks sober, and pulled of a time of 1:51, beating my previous time by a minute. It appears that to some extent this training worked as well.

But obviously it didn't work at helping me achieve optimal health. While I finished both times at a kind of middle of the pack pace, I certainly wasn't well. I was constantly injured, tired, and unmotivated. I remember yawning all the time, which was a real joy for those trying to hold a conversation with me. I'm sure many can relate to this feeling to some extent, as it seems like the traditional perception of what exercise is supposed to be involves beating ourselves up as much as possible to make ourselves "stronger".

This time around I was more or less forced into a slow and steady approach, as it was doctor's orders to take it easy post surgery. I also started to approach running to a more spiritual experience, as something that strengthened mind, body, and soul. I noticed after a few weeks I was feeling better than I ever had, and had much more energy. I started reading and studying more on how to train for endurance and came across a lot of literature on training aerobically (within specific heart rate ranges).

Phil Maffetone has an approach to finding your maximum aerobic heart rate for training, which has been used by many professional triathletes over the last 30 years. It is suggested that most, if not all, training should be done at no higher than a person's maximum aerobic heart rate (his book, The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing, is very informative). I won't go into the physiology of it, but the theory is that the more you train at this heart rate without exceeding it, the better your slow fat burning mechanism becomes (vs. your fast carb burning mechanism). Because you can burn your stores of fat for longer than you can burn carbohydrates, your endurance increases substantially as you spend more time in the "fat burning" zone. The trick is training your body to burn more fat as fuel, which means slowing down.

For me, because I had conditioned myself to train hard and fast without consideration for biofeedback, at any indication of increased activity, my brain would tell my heart to go bananas. And bananas it would go. It's no wonder I was always tired, injured, and full of anxiety. I've recently determined my maximum aerobic heart rate to be 142 (which is 180 minus my age, minus a few more beats for being injured - a calculation based on Maffetone's recommendation).

So instead of making the pace the constant in my training, I made heart rate a constant. The other constant that was changed was distance and time. Instead of distance being constant ("I'm going to run 5 miles today), time became the constant ("I'm going to run 1 hour today"). Psychologically this sounds much better since exercising for an hour sounds more appealing than running 5 miles. In theory this makes for much more efficient training as you are relying on biofeedback, and one can build up endurance by adding time each week. Since pace and distance are now variable, I can better judge what my body is telling me based on how those variables trend.

This is a frustrating undertaking at first, but one that I found was exceptionally freeing as I learned to let go of control, and allow myself to be humble, patient, and accepting. I was initially forced to take on an 11-12 min/mile pace in order to keep my heart rate at 142, and I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything. Nor was I breaking a sweat or breathing hard at all. As I said, my heart was conditioned to blow up at any hint of activity. I could swear I heard "pick it up, wuss!" as an elderly woman passed me with her walker.

Nonetheless, I was beginning to yawn less and less, I began thinking more clearly, and I was happier and less worried about everything. I am also burning more fat and avoiding injuries. The idea of being humble, patient, and accepting in my workouts began to translate into the rest of my life. Where I placed my ego on the shelf a few months ago, I now buried it in a box and put it in public storage. Below are the results of three runs I performed within one month of each other. I logged the splits for each mile of each run and recorded them to track progress (The "MAF" in MAF test stands for maximum aerobic function). All these miles were done at or within 2 beats of 142.

As the results stand now, I am very near my previous half marathon paces. While one can argue that that in and of itself doesn't prove that I am any more fit than I was at my two previous attempts since I am not any faster, I would argue that these paces now come with very little effort. Since I have held heart rate constant, my perceived effort is still very low even as the pace has improved.

I've learned that this is "real" training. A switch has flipped and I'm pretty well convinced that this is an effective way to improve the health of the mind, body, and soul, regardless of how the race results turn out. I am unsure what to expect tomorrow as I race my third half marathon. While my training is done at 142 heart rate, racing can be done at higher heart rates. My goal is to follow the 1:45 pace group as much as possible and see how I do. If I can pass them and still feel good, I will. If I fall back and finish behind my previous finishes, that's fine too. I'm still in training and have a long way to go, but at least now I feel happy, healthy, and closer to God. As long as those are the results, that will continue to be my training. That's a win in my book.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

"So THAT's a Parsnip?... Do You Eat It?", and Other Dietary Considerations

The next few blog posts will basically continue some of the background information, including how I am eating, how I am training, and the effect this is having versus my previous lifestyle choices. As the title above suggests, this post will be dedicated to my diet and nutrition.

To state the obvious, I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and by no means do I have any significant expertise on the subject of nutrition aside from what I am learning now. My experience up to this point has simply been based on trust; If a restaurant, supermarket, box, can, paper bag, or creepy guy in a van classified something as food, I would eat it. Within the last few months as I have been more conscious of my diet, I've started to learn the ins and outs (figuratively and literally) of different fats, carbs, and proteins.

What have I learned thus far? There are no shortage "opinions" on the subject of how we diet. And when I say "opinions" I mean rabid and didactic blow-hardiness. Lifestyle choices we hear about, such as low-carb, low-fat, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, fruititarian, Taco Bell and beer, etc., are often presented as the only way, and this can be frustrating to some people who aren't as convicted. The fact that many people are living healthy lifestyles under different programs leads me to believe there's merit to these lifestyles. Further it tells me that the body is an amazing thing that can adapt and thrive in many conditions and that dietary tolerances vary from person to person. For this reason I'm taking a balanced approach to nutrition. With the training I have ahead, I know I will need a proper mix of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, so going to the extreme in any direction may be unhealthy for me. As much as possible, I am cutting out all processed food, attempting to go "mostly" organic, and adopting a plant based diet. When I say plant "based" I mean the plants serve as an appropriate "base" on which to put healthy meats and eggs. Most of my dinners are colorful and have a variety of vegetables and fibers (WARNING!: Super pretentious dinner plate photos to follow)

Salmon on a bed of brown rice (that has a name I can't pronounce) with black beans, brussel sprouts, and asparagus. 
Before a few months ago, I never took into consideration any balance. I don't need to tell you what I was eating, as we all know what happens when we stop caring about what we put in our body. So what is this balance? As I said above, I believe every person is different, and so is every purpose for the diet. I am following a training program in which I am building endurance, and thus burning more fat. Therefore my balance is about 35-40% fats, 25% protein, and 35-40% carbohydrates. The diet is mainly comprised of eggs, nuts (such as almonds), olive oils, avocados, and beans for fats and proteins, For my carbohydrates I mainly try to get these from fruits and vegetables, which requires me to include vegetable portions to all my meals. I have also gone with the recommendation to eat more, smaller meals throughout the day vs. the three square alternative. It goes without saying that I abstain from drinking alcohol as that was proven to not be a healthy choice for me.

More about the veggies. We get a box of organic produce from a company that partners with local farms. Really, they just throw a bunch of vegetables in there that I've never heard of and we have fun trying to figure out how to eat it. Most of the time I just throw all of it into a salad, bear down, and dig in.

What has been the net effect of this? Naturally, I have had much more energy. My body is spending less energy breaking down the food because the food is natural and I am eating fewer calories per meal. More nutrients are getting to my body which means I am functioning more effectively. My brain (for what it's worth) is clearer now than it ever was before. I'm feeling less achy, with no headaches and pains, and I'm not winded walking up the stairs. I feel like I'm adequately fueled to work out for a lengthy time. I've also lost 15 lbs in the last couple months (exercise also played a role in this).

So here's where I'm supposed to jump on a soapbox and shout about how easy and fun it is to eat healthy, and how I have effortlessly made the transition as the food is just as enjoyable as the unhealthy alternatives, "free at last, free at last!" Indulging this idea for a second I will say that eating naturally and organically is very much more self satisfying than the alternative. I will also concede that eating this way MAY be more enjoyable depending on the individual's motivation and tolerance (I, for one, enjoyed lots of unhealthy foods, and often miss them terribly. However I have an obsessive personality). I don't want to diminish the above benefits because they are enormous and far outweigh the drawbacks. However anyone who claims that it is "easy and fun" is just not being truthful.

First let's look at the products. Buying organically severely limits your options, and significantly increases your budget. Once you get the product home you have to store it. No more prepackaged easy to fit boxes to go in the freezer for a few months. Instead you're trying to fit four different kinds of lettuce into the refrigerator. If you don't eat it within a few days it will go bad quickly, so more frequent trips to the store are necessary.

It takes a significant amount of time to prep the products (let alone figure out how to eat the produce you've never heard of before). It also takes a lot longer to eat the products, so not only am I eating more meals, I'm taking longer to eat them. While I thought that the physical training would be the most time consuming element of this adventure, by far the nutrition takes the cake (or... black bean cookies maybe? bleh). By far eating processed food is much easier and cheaper than eating healthy.

The candy bowl, ineffectively hidden from me and the kids in our broken microwave
But that is how I've been conditioned to eat throughout my life. I've become conditioned to use eating as a "comfort" mechanism, or to "grab a quick bite", or "scarf down a burrito". The appreciation is coming with time, and I am already starting to obsess less about the unhealthy foods (especially refined sugars - Ah, M&M's, you horrible temptress! I still have a huge bag of these that are calling out from my broken microwave oven... don't ask), and obsess more about the healthy diet. I simply need to be reconditioned to appreciate this new lifestyle and the grace God has given me to be able to have access to fresh and high quality food. Everything else is a first world problem, as I am blessed with an abundance of Grace. It's all about perspective.

By the way, in case you haven't noticed, I have set up my Compassion fundraiser page, so that is up and running and linked to the right of the page. If you're feeling generous please click on over and make a donation. The goal for this one is $1,000 because it is the first time I am doing this and I don't know what to expect. If that is exceeded pretty quickly I'll just increase the goal. Also, I will be adding two more fundraisers to the Cabo Ironman, and that will tie into the who "tri" theme (I didn't initially recognize the implication of "tri-fund-racing", but it makes sense). The Ironman itself will be a pretty extreme challenge, why not make the fundraisers pretty extreme as well? Once they are up I will let you know. Thank you in advance!