Monday, February 11, 2013

Day 4 - Pools, Clouds & Arm Writing.

February 10, 2013     243.4 lbs.

Woke up feeling a little tired. I remembered kind of last minute that I needed a "pull buoy" for part of the swim workout.  This caused a little stress as I went to the local Big 5 just to find out it didn't have the item in-stock as it had said online. So when I finally got the pull buoy, the storm clouds and lateness of the day was starting to work on my head as I didn't want to do the trail run portion at night.



This was another dual workout day. One hour of swimming and one hour of trail running. It was raining and cold today. (Nothing like the North East is experiencing right now though. Stay warm!) By the time I ate my pre-workout snack and got to the pool, I was stressed and concerned. This is not a good way to start any workout as you burn quite a bit of energy stressing out about stuff. 

Check out the clever way I remembered the swim workout. (Yes, I know I didn't think of it first.)

So I got in the pool and realized I was going to need to do some on the spot math as I forgot to upload the workout to my watch earlier. Doh! So I got out and used my phones calculator to figure out how many pool lengths equaled 200 meters. (Roughly six.) Then I remembered I could set a distance alert on the watch which helped a lot. (Hey Garmin, please make creating swim workouts easier!)
The first part of the workout is 200 meters freestyle swim, 200 meters using a kickboard, 200 meters with the pull buoy and 200 meters freestyle swimming again. By the way, when using the kickboard, you hold it out in front of you while using only your legs to "kick" and propel yourself. The pull buoy is placed between your thighs and it helps you develop your upper body only as your legs don't move.
I haven't done any swimming for a while so it took a bit to get my "rhythm" back and I will say, as I am not a very strong or experienced swimmer, it was clumsy at best. I also realized that the watch couldn't track the kick drills as it's designed to work with the movement of the arm. At the end of this part, I was pretty tired. However, I knew that I had to keep going.
The next part of the workout was doing 100 meters each of only the left arm, only the right arm, catch up and finally freestyle. Catch up is when you have both arms meet out in front before one does the pull stroke then repeat with the other. 100 meters was three pool lengths as I came to learn. Then I had to do 5x 100 meters doing 50 meters of kick drill and 50 meters of freestyle for each. Confused? I still am! When I saw the swim workouts for the first time, I thought it was in another language. 
After the 50/50 set I was done. My arms were limp noodles and just then for unforeseeable reasons, I had to leave the pool due to security reasons. To be honest, I didn't mind. I was struggling with the last part a lot. Hopefully, I won't be in too much trouble from my coach. Tomorrow is a day off!

In The Beginning Part 2:

Last time I talked about quitting smoking and beginning to eat healthy. At the point that I decided to start working out, I was in pretty bad shape. I think I was up to 260 lbs by then and at 6'1" it showed. I had been sedentary for almost 15 years or more. So at the urging of the wife, I started easy with walking. I live at the top of a nice hill about a half mile long. So I would put on a small back pack with a water bottle inside and head first down then back up the hill. At first it took forever, but I kept doing it until I felt like I could go faster. Then I started putting a ten pound plate in the backpack with the water bottle. I got a heart rate monitor and started watching the numbers. If my heart rate went above the recommended limit, I would slow down a bit.  What I didn't know at the time is I was working out at way too high a heart rate for a beginner. Doing this caused me to burnout and loose motivation over time. I should have spent several weeks working on my aerobic thresh hold. Basically working at a low enough rate that forced my body burn fat for fuel. This would cause the mitochondria in my muscle cells to increase in number and size, and increase their ability to adapt at working harder for longer. This is a step that most people never do, instead working in the "gray zone." This is the area of your heart rate where your working too hard to see improvement in your aerobic zone but not hard enough to substantially help you anaerobic zone. (Please keep in mind that this is my understanding of it.)  It's what everyone does, especially guys. Start training and train way too hard, get burned out and give up.
I got to the point that I was starting to run up the hill for short portions. Not to fast, but running none the less. I also discovered a local hiking trail that I fell in love with immediately. I got to the point that I would go up one portion of the trail as fast as I could, keeping my heart rate very close to the maximum rate.  But all the sudden, I was fatigued and burned out. 
What followed was another period of nothing. I could say that work picked up but it's just an excuse. When the work ended, I just wasn't motivated to get back out there.  I had started doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu around this time and loved it. But I got injured constantly and would gas out almost immediately. This frustrated me to the point that once again, I let life and other drama get in the way and eventually stopped going. 
I was a vegetarian by this point and weighed about 250 lbs. One of the places I was starting to eat at a lot was Vinh Loi Tofu in Reseda, CA. A vegan restaurant and tofu factory. Sometimes when you meet certain people, you just click. It was like that the first time ate there. This is Kevin Tran the owner.

A Vietnamese immigrant and avid marathon and triathlon-er. Kevin is the kind of guy that everyone likes instantly. When customers ask him if a certain soup is good, he will look at them very seriously and say "No." Then after a slightly pregnant pause, he'll continue, "It's excellent." Here is another, "I like to run in bad neighborhoods, cause it makes me run faster."
Inside his restaurant, are countless medals from his various races. Including his 2012 Ironman medal. I remember the first time he suggested I do a triathlon. I reacted in horror, "No way! I could never do a triathlon!" Kevin responded, "Then do a 5k." Me with horror again, "No way, I can't walk 3.1 miles!"
Okay guys, here is a bit of reality for you. Most of you are walking more than that every day at work already. Want to see for yourself, get a pedometer and wear it all day. You will be surprised. I did it a few months ago on a job and walked 10 miles in a day! No kidding. Obviously, some people are more sedentary than others but walking three miles continuously will probably not result in your demise.  
But at that point, I was too new to the idea of getting out and moving. One thing that I started paying a lot of attention to were those hanging medals in the restaurant. I would just stare at them and think, "You know, it sure would be kinda cool to have a medal like that." Somehow, through subliminal messages or spiked tofu, I started thinking about doing an obstacle race 5k. Eventually, I found the Gladiator Rock n Run in Pasadena, CA to be held October 1, 2011. This was it! I had a month and a half to train, what could go wrong?

The first thing I did was download an app for my iPhone called Interval Run. The app basically tells you exactly what to do to train and builds you up gradually to be able to run your race. I liked it very much. It starts you off walking and gradually has you run so your body can get used to it. I got a few friends to sign up with me to make a team and everything was going great. Then a week before the race my knee started hurting. Damn! I joined the Army out of high school and did completed airborne training. Unfortunately, it damaged my knees and has made running difficult ever since. I stopped running and hoped by race day, it would be healed.

Race day came and I nervously showed up at the starting line, my wife with me, ready to film. For some reason our group wore neon green t-shirts. GO!!! We jogged into Rose Bowl Stadium where the first obstacle was to climb the stadium stairs four times. By the first set of stairs, my knee was throbbing, by the end of fourth set I was limping pretty. I was thinking, "Man, I just got started and I already feel like I'm done!" Ended up finishing the race, it wasn't pretty but I did it.

Never thought I would be so happy to be covered in mud! As you can tell from the video, I was ecstatic. 


Before the Gladiator run I had already signed up for the Spartan Race in Malibu, CA. There is something strangely addictive about signing up for these races. It took several weeks for my knee to heal and while discussing my knee issues online, a friend named Matt O'Neil mentioned Vibram 5 Fingers as an alternative to my regular shoes. He explained that the cause of knee pain and shinsplints is often due to the forceful impact of the heal striking the ground first. The Vibrams help you develop a non-heal striking running technique. He was adamant that it would "change my life." So I took his word for it and bought a pair. After the initial soreness of using muscles that you usually don't, the difference was incredible. I can't run without Vibrams or another "zero drop" style shoe.


It was at this time that I read a book that has become one of my all time favorites. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. A great story that continues to inspire me, it goes in depth about the new "barefoot" running craze.

The Spartan race was held on November 19, 2011 and it was tough but my knees never hurt once during or after the race. Thanks Matt O'Neil!!! For this race, I used the Interval Run app again. I also started hiking Stough Canyon again and I even found a great set of stairs in my neighborhood to run up several times just in case there were stadium bleachers in the wilderness of Malibu.


The race was grueling but fun because when you are that miserable you have to find the fun in it. It takes place at a ranch in Malibu along some ancient fire roads and almost non existent trails. Besides the obstacles that include climbs over cargo nets, walls, monkey bars and several other things, there are a couple of freezing cold mini lakes to forage. The second of these was so cold that I was concerned for my reproductive health after! The most brutal obstacle is hill climb, under barbed wire over jagged rocks and mud. After completing the barb wire crawl, I sat down for a second at the top of the hill to catch my breath when a guy runs past and says, "You okay there big man?" For some reason it bugged me so I took of after him but he was around the bend and out of site in no time.
The last obstacle is a fire jump. Very cool for pictures. By the way, that's my race number on my forehead. They talked me into putting it there when I went through the body marking station at registration.
See, looks like I'm walking through fire with a stupid number on my forehead.


I also picked up a nifty reminder of the race. Got it from crawling under the barbed wire.



That's enough for now. In Part 3 of the "In The Beginning Series", I will discuss my first triathlons.

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