Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Amazing things can happen if you "just believe"

I just finished writing an article about a first-time Boston Marathon finisher and my mind is contemplating what I learned from the interview I had with him. I asked him what advice he would give to someone who might think they could never accomplish running a race like Boston. His response was "you just have to believe you can do it." Of course, there is more to completing the Boston Marathon than just "believing" you can. Obviously it takes talent and a lot of hard training. But, the general idea is that if you believe that you CAN'T do it, you won't!

This past week I did a lot of "believing." After my 1 lb weight loss last week (um...5 days...), I was all about the forward motion of getting the job done the following week. I knew this diet plan worked but I doubted how my body would react once I started adding my normal workout routines back into my life.

This week my workouts consisted of two 1-hour swims, one 2-hour bike, one 1-hour run, one 1.5 hour run, and one 1-hour yoga class. Now, as far as my "normal" triathlon workouts go, this one is a little on the lite side. But, it's probably the most I've done in one week since triathlon season "ended" (it never really ends...) last year. So, making sure my body was both energized enough for the workout AND I didn't UNDEReat would be key!

My bike, swim & yoga workouts were great. I didn't push myself into my anaerobic heart rate (as suggested by my doctor) except for a few moments on my ride. I mean, have you ever seen Hunter Station Road in Reston, VA before? Yeah, I did a little huffing and puffing but I'm hoping my doctor will let that one slide. I say blame it on my ride leader!

My runs are a totally different story. I mean, seriously...I just ran a marathon a month ago so my aerobic conditioning is fine. But, I'm still totally dragging on my runs. Two miles into the run I feel I have no energy to continue moving. I'll stop and walk and the energy levels will come back up but then a little while later I crash again. So, during my last long run I decided to go back to my old way of fueling my body. Well, I didn't totally go back but I did bring my own electrolyte solution (with carbs) and one Gu gel (total carbs) for my run. Guess what? It didn't help! So, I'm still trying to find the right combination for my long runs. Maybe I won't have to worry much about it, though, because I'll hopefully reach my goal weight before I have to do any really long runs for upcoming races. 

This week I'm going to focus on "believing" this can be done. I've seen the stats, I've gotten rid of my clothes, I feel the energy (except on my runs), and now I'm ready to continue on with this process. I'm about half way there so now is no time to stop!

So...ready for the stats? Here they are:
This week:
6.5 lb weight loss
1 inch in waist
0.5 inch in hips
0.79% body fat lost

Total since March 31st
19 lbs weight loss

6.5 inches from my waist
3.5 inches from my hips
1 inch from my arm
1.5 inches from my thigh
2.29% of my total body fat
No significant lean body mass loss

Monday, April 25, 2011

Race: Jerusalem Marathon
Date: Friday, March 25, 2010
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Division: 45-49 yo
Time: 5:38 - PR!

Race Report:

Pre-Race: There is so much I can talk about in my "pre-race" notes. Everything from the bus delay going from DC to NYC, the security "escort" from the terminal to the gate with El Al employees, the "back story" with the ladies I traveled with, meeting the Mayor of Jerusalem, being interviewed by both TV and newspaper, etc. But, I'll be as brief as I can!

I arrived in Israel three days before the race and hoped to have plenty of time to recover from jet lag. Thankfully it worked otherwise my body would have felt as if the marathon start time was 1 AM! On the other hand, this being my first time to Israel and only having five days total to see the country, I spent a lot of time on my feet for days before the race doing tourist stuff. I can definitely say I was not well rested for the race.

Upon arriving to Tel Aviv, my friend Anna and I found out about a bombing that occurred in Jerusalem only an hour or so before we landed. She, of course, didn't tell me about the bombing until we were on our way to Jerusalem. I don't know if she thought I might turn around and get a flight out back to the USA or what. Thankfully I didn't let the bombing stop me from running the race and thankfully the race director and the Mayor of Jerusalem felt the same way!

This race was only the second time I had raced for charity (first was the Marine Corps Marathon for Jill's House) and this time I was racing for Shalva - The Association of Physically and Mentally Challenged Children in Israel. It was fabulous to meet some of my teammates, Shalva children and the founder of Shalva the night before the race. It was a boost of emotional energy that would help sustain me throughout the race. 

The Start Line:

Initial reports were that 10,000 people were registered for this race. But, what I came to learn was those 10,000 people were not just marathon runners but also half marathon, 10K, and 4.2K. So, when I got to the start line I could actually SEE the start line! Apparently there were only about 500 people running the first EVER Jerusalem marathon. What a privilege to be one of those 500 people!

The picture below was taken about 15 minutes before the race began!

The Race:
This is only the fifth marathon I've run (and 3 of those were MCM) so I can't compare it much to other marathons. But, talking with other racers they all agreed this is one of the most scenic races they have ever run. You begin the race right by the Israeli Parliament (The Kneset) and around the 10k mark you get to run THROUGH the Old City of Jerusalem. This was such a special part of the race and, of course, lots of crowd support. This was also the site of what I knew would be many hills to come...although I didn't think they could get much worse. I.WAS.WRONG!

 In front of the Old City of Jerusalem 

Going up the hill into the Old City of Jerusalem

Running through the Old City of Jerusalem

Coming out of the Old City we had a slight downhill...very slight. At this point I started to become somewhat distracted by a lady who was racing/talking to me and I missed some of the beauty of the race thanks to her. She was one of those runners whose arm bumps into you every five seconds and who pees in public every mile or so. Unfortunately, I'm not a very fast runner. So, even though I tried to "run away" from her several times she still caught up to me! I finally "ditched" her in the last 10 miles of the race...I did NOT want to cross the finish line with her. I mean, when the Israeli Police tell you (not once...not twice...but SEVERAL TIMES) not to pee in public...YOU LISTEN!! I was afraid this woman was well on her way to jail! And, let me tell you...little small "new" trees in the middle of a median with runners on BOTH sides of the road won't hide even the smallest of people. "Discreet" was not a word in this woman's dictionary!

When I finally ditched "Ms. Peebody" we had just passed the finish line of the half marathon. The course was kinda odd at this point because we had to run behind the crowd that was cheering on the half finishers. They barely even recognized we were there...and we still had about 10 miles to go! Anyway, we made a right turn and started going up this hill below. The picture doesn't show just how steep the hill was but it was a hill I ended up turning around and walking backwards to get up! When I turned around I noticed this couple in the picture. On the right was a lady I ended up finishing the race with - Lisa Jackson - a journalist from London. By the time the race was over, Lisa and I had become good friends and she invited me to visit her in London to race the Loc Ness marathon (because getting in the London marathon is about as crazy as NY and Loc Ness is apparently way more scenic). The guy on the left wasn't familiar to me at the time. I mean, who thinks you'll be running next to someone "famous" during a marathon. What I learned was the gentleman I ran with was Bart Yasso - Editor at Large for "Runner's World" magazine. I mean, how cool is that? 

The weather had been nice for most of our race but it was also a pretty overcast day. I wish it had been a little clearer (or that I could have run with my 35 mm camera) so I could show you some amazing shots of the race course and Israel. The one below is a picture of me at the top of Mount Scopus. On a clear day you can actually see the Dead Sea from this location. Mount Scopus is where Hebrew University is located and was the highest elevation of the race. The hill to get there wasn't too steep - just a long steady climb.

From Mount Scopus, we had about 7 miles left in the race. We kept thinking we had seen the last of the hills. Surely there couldn't be MORE...we were wrong. Below is a picture of one of the last big hills we had to climb.

Finally, when the finish line was near I thought I would go all out and do a little sprint at the end. I mean, at least it was level ground! But, the day before the race it had rained considerably and the ground was VERY muddy. They laid some sort of AstroTurf type of material over the mud but all that did was keep you from getting dirty. It was one lump after another and there was no way to get your footing to actually get a sprint finish! Oh well, I did what I could and Lisa said I was just flying to the finish line. In my opinion I was running as fast I could as to not get injured in the last yards of the race! I could have very easily twisted my ankle on that stuff.


I finished the race in 5:38. I was pretty sure that wasn't a PR but I couldn't remember my other race finish times. Besides, I wasn't out to get a PR at this race. I knew the hills would kill me, I knew the jet lag might be an issue and I knew I would be stopping to take pictures all along the race course. So, I wasn't too concerned about the time. After I got home I realized that I DID have a PR - by about 5 minutes. What made it even more special was that the winner of the marathon (and just about everyone I talked to after the race) finished about 1/2 hour slower than their typical race pace. So, if I count that half hour plus all the time I stopped to take pictures I could have had a sub 5:00 marathon! Wow, what training does for a body! My first marathon time (including vomiting 9 times on the race course) was 6:13! Now you know what I've got to do, right? another marathon!

The Jerusalem Marathon is not the most organized race in the world and there isn't a lot of crowd support for the full. However, given this is the first time they have hosted a marathon I feel things will change. If you want to run a beautiful, challenging course then this is the marathon for you!

Lessons Learned:
  • There is no way you can ever properly train for a marathon in Jerusalem on the "hills" of Virginia.
  • If you are going to leave the country to race, plan for more than a 5-day stay!
  • If someone is bothering you early in the race...find a way, at all costs, to ditch them!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's all about forward motion

I say I'm pleased with my weight loss results this week but if I'm really honest with myself I'm disappointed. I'm not disappointed because I didn't lose a certain amount of pounds. I'm disappointed because I cheated. Cheating on my diet only means that I'm cheating myself out of what's best for my body. They weren't "big" cheats like eating a big piece of chocolate cake or anything like that but the little bite of cracker here and there or skipping on my veggies because I just didn't want them - THOSE are the type of cheats I'm talking about.Thankfully there have only been 5 days since my last weigh in and I could learn my lesson quickly without going any additional days on this downward cheating spiral. I'm able to take what happened and hopefully learn from it.

I'm a big fan of the show "The Biggest Loser" and last night's show really spoke to me. Kaylee, who gained 4 lbs last week, had a goal to succeed this week. She said "I can let it (the weight gain) distract me or I can do everything in my power to fight to stay here." Her trainer, Cara, said that "Kaylee has never believed in herself. She has always settled for less her whole life." Kaylee, who is very close to her weight goal ended up losing 5 lbs this week and made changes in her life she never thought possible.

Kaylee reminds me of myself. I have always settled for less in my life when it comes to my weight. I have always had a mental block getting below a certain size/weight and here I find myself again in that same place. I start sabotaging my efforts and my weight starts to increase again. I CAN'T let the same thing happen to me this time. THIS is my moment to grasp all that is there for me and move forward in this journey. It's all about the forward motion.

In the upcoming weeks I'm going to have to pay extra close attention to my body and hunger "pains." I'm also going to start testing different nutrition on my long workouts and see what I can use to replace the Gu and electrolyte drinks I'm so used to having.

So, here are the stats...

This week (5 days only):
1 lb weight loss
2 inches in waist
1.5 inches in hips
0.51% body fat loss

Total since March 31st
1.5% of my total body fat
5.5 inches from my waist
3 inches from my hips
1 inch from my arm
1.5 inches from my thigh
No significant lean body mass loss

Now it's time to get real, get serious, and STOP CHEATING!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Anyone want some clothes?

That's right - I'm giving away my clothes already! I can't believe what is going on with the jeans I'm wearing today. Just two weeks ago these jeans were TIGHT (we're talking serious tightness - the kind where you only wear them in public then you come home and put on your "comfortable" pants). But today I'm pulling and tugging at them to keep them up on my hips!

This diet was easier this week than last. I find I'm not as much of a veggie-hater as I once proclaimed! I'm struggling a bit in my workouts - particularly my runs - because I don't have the energy I'm used to having from the carbs in my system. But, my doctor says it's a temporary feeling and it should get better soon. I'm just getting back into my longer-distance bike & swim workouts from a very lazy winter so I'll have to pay close attention to how I feel on those workouts in the upcoming weeks.

I have to admit - I cheated this week. For some crazy reason I decided it was okay to have cashews. Then, after the third day of eating them (only 6 each time) I realized they have a pretty high carb content so I stopped. I also "accidentally" cheated, too! I was so excited to purchase beets for the first time in my adult life that I didn't stop to see if beets were acceptable on this diet. I had gone to all the trouble to ask my Facebook friends for yummy recipes and everything. I spent a long time determining how to cook them and made them into a great roasted treat. As I was eating the first few slices I thought to myself "hmmm...these are pretty sweet for this diet." I then went to my "restricted veggies" list and right there in front of my eyes - between the avocado and carrots were...beets. I was bummed about it but I have a new-found love for beets and can't wait to get to the "maintenance" stage of this diet to begin eating, and enjoying beets.

So, how much further do I have to go to the "maintenance" stage? Well, I started out needing to lose 39 lbs. The first week I lost 8.5 lbs and this week I lost 4 lbs. So, I've lost a total of 12.5 lbs. Maintenance begins when I'm 90% of the way to my goal weigh so, about 4 lbs from my goal is when I'll begin. That means I need to lose another 22.5 lbs.

Every time I go in for my appointment there are several aspects to it - weighing in, measurements, percent body fat analysis, lean body mass, and a few other measurements.

To date I have lost the following:
1% of my total body fat
3.5 inches from my waist
1.5 inches from my hips
1 inch from my arm
1.5 inches from my thigh
No significant lean body mass loss

So, today I am going through my closet and saying goodbye to some of my clothes. I hope to never be back at this weight again for the rest of my life. I'm thrilled at my progress and can't wait to reach my goal. One thing my doctor said to me early on in my journey is to consider this like another aspect of my training and that's what I'm going to continue to do. 

As my friend Stacie would say - Onward and Upward...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My weight loss saga continues

So, many of you know that I've tried several ways to lose weight and they have all been successful for a period of time but they always end up disappointing me in the long run. I really had a goal in 2011 to lose weight, though. So, whatever it took I was going to find the right diet for me.

On January 3rd I joined Weight Watchers. Now, I'm not going to dog on WW...much...but WW is NOT a weight loss program for endurance athletes. Before I even signed on the dotted line to join WW I spoke to the local consultants about my specific needs. When I had joined WW back in 2004 I was training for my first marathon and, at the time, they didn't have the "activity points" they do now. Activity points are points you receive from working out that you were able to incorporate into your diet. Okay, so if you don't know about WW points you're probably already confused right now. But basically, with WW new program I was able to eat more because I exercised. That's good...or was it? What ended up happening is I would workout HOURS a day (because I was now training for the Jerusalem Marathon) but was only allowed to eat a partial amount of the points attained by my workout. This wasn't the case for most WW members but it was for me because of my "excessive" (excessive by WW standards) amount of exercise. Bottom line - I lost 3 lbs total by the end of Feb 2011. I immediately decided to stop attending WW meetings (a huge time consumer in my life anyway...) but tried to continue eating healthy like I had in the past.

For a while now many people at my church have been on this program called "Ideal Protein." The name alone scared me. First, because I'm a professed Carbaholic! Second, because I don't eat much protein and the protein I do eat is typically that which comes from a pig! And third, because I heard this program didn't allow people to work out!!! WHAT? A healthy diet program which didn't incorporate exercise???? NO WAY I was going to do this program. No...Way!!!

Over time I kept an eye out on my Ideal Protein friends. Were they losing weight? Were they keeping it off? How did they feel? And, what I saw seemed to be very good results in all the people I knew. One friend had lost almost 200 lbs on the program!

So, I decided to go to my friend of over 10+ years Dr. Ron Wichin. Dr. Wichin was the "go to" guy for the Ideal Protein diet. As an avid cyclist himself (and someone who lost over 75 lbs on this diet), I knew he would have the answers I needed about this program. Of course, the first words out of my mouth were about the lack of exercise incorporated into the program. What I came to learn was simple: the first week of the program you are depleting your calories so drastically that if I were to exercise I would deplete them even further causing my body to go into starvation mode and not allowing me to lose weight. Made sense. So, all Dr. Wichin asked of me was to take a week off exercise. Well, what better time than right after my marathon! Perfect! It'll not only give my body time to recovery but it will also allow me the week I needed to begin this diet.

The first week of the diet was hard. I won't mince words here. As I said, I'm not a huge protein fan but I'm even less of a veggie fan. This diet involves pre-packaged foods (the ONLY place you get your carbs) with 5-8 oz of lean meat/fish for dinner and 4 cups daily (2 at lunch, 2 at dinner) of veggies and unlimited amounts of lettuce. So, seeing the banana on my counter the first week was a pretty big temptation. But, I had a goal in mind and it didn't include the banana!

I was well educated as to the potential first-week "symptoms" of headaches, fatigue, etc. But, my body adjusted quite well. Day one I felt a little cranky, day two I had a headache and I was extremely tired for several days. However, once my body got adjusted to the food (or lack of carbs thereof...) I felt GREAT!

Another concern I had about this diet was that it might be similar to the Adkins Diet. Well, Dr. Wichin explained to me that although our bodies go into ketosis (normal of many diets) they don't go into ketoacidosis (like Adkins). There is definitely portion control of the meats we are allowed to eat, high fat meats are not allowed and we eat a lot of veggies to balance out the acid in our bodies.

What happens with this diet is that you deplete the carbs in your body in such a manner than your body learns to live off your own fat reserves and you lose weight! The specifics of the science behind the diet is better off explained by someone else but all I can say is - IT WORKS! My first 6 days I've lost 8.5 lbs and I'm thinner now than I was before I got married and had kids!

Obviously my first-week results weren't typical of a woman my age & weight (3-4 lbs is typical) and I don't expect to lose crazy amounts of weight like that every week. But, being closer to my goal weight will help me be the triathlete I really want to be without the added stresses that having an additional 39 lbs (now 30.5 lbs) on my body causes.

Now it's time to start week two!!!