Dec 292013
What stories will I have to tell at this time next year?

What stories will I have to tell at this time next year?

It’s no secret that I started planning for next season months ago. With how the last two seasons have gone, I can barely wait to write another chapter! I started off this year with some ambitious goals, and while I missed a few small ones, they all served to spur me forward.

For 2014, all I want is more of that. I plan to do my best Daft Punk impersonation, and go harder, do better, race faster, and get stronger.

  • On the mountain bike, I want to become a regular contender for the podium in the Sport class in my local race series, and I want to hit 6 laps in the JB 6 hour race. I also want to expand my endurance racing outside the local area more, taking on at least one round of the TriState 6 Hour championship. I really want to complete a 100 mile mountain bike race, but we’ll have to see how things go early in the season, before I can commit to that as a goal. At the very least, I’ll be going for a few metric centuries.
  • On the road bike, I want to do Calvin’s Challenge again, and have another go at my goal of over 100 miles in 6 hours. If I can do that, I should be in the mix for a class win! Other than Calvin’s, I just want to improve my hill climbing ability, tackle the Linden Road hill in Miamisburg, and log a few more centuries during the Tour de Cure, the Young’s Ice Cream Charity Bicycle Tour and others.
  • I don’t have any real goals for the ‘Cross bike, other than to keep racing, improving my skills, and having fun. I may try out some gravel racing with it, if I can fit it in.
  • On foot, I only want to add speed, and continue to work toward being able to run injury-free. I’d like to lower my half marathon time below 1:45, my 5k below 22 minutes, and my 1.5 mile TT under 10 minutes.
  • In the weight room, my expectations are more modest. I need to develop some shoulder strength and scapular stability before my overhead movements can progress, but I would like my bench to get to 225. My squats need a lot of work as well, but I’d love to get 255. My deadlift is coming along nicely already, but I’d like to push the envelope and get over 400 for the first time. Outside of weight PRs, I want to continue to master more Olympic movements, and make my whole body more resistant to injury.
  • I’ll keep working on swimming, and will set a whole bunch of little goals, starting with just one length of the pool. If it ever clicks, I’d love to try my hand at a small triathlon.
  • I want to get the motorcycle back on track again, heading out a few weekends here and there to knock the cobwebs off. If I can get going well enough, I’d love to do a race weekend with MotoSeries at Putnam Park.
  • While all of that is going on, I want to drop my “race weight” under 180. That’ll be tough, but with how I felt at 185 this year, I certainly think it’s doable.

When I write it all out, it sounds like a lot. It is a lot. But having all these goals keeps me engaged, interested, and most of all, training. I may hit all of them. I may fall short on some, or abandon a few for lack of time or funds. Heck, I may wad myself up in a bike crash at the beginning of the year and spend the rest of the season rehabbing. But I’ll always make sure to have something to shoot for. For me, to do less would be not to live.

Eyes up, friends. 2014 is going to be amazing.

Oct 232013
Somebody wanna tell me why they need two 'M's? Never understood that.

Somebody wanna tell me why they need two ‘M’s? Never understood that.

I’ve had to do an inordinate amount of clothes shopping this year. I don’t normally enjoy it, since it involves, well, shopping. I’m fond of telling my wife that I don’t go shopping, I go buying. But for clothes, you usually don’t have much of a choice. Anyway, when it comes to shopping for clothes because my old ones are too big, I’m willing to make an exception.

Last summer, as I trained for my first half marathon, I discovered that XL t-shirts had become baggy on me. This was underlined when I picked up my packet and shirt for the Air Force Half. I registered early in the year, when XL was still the norm. But by the time the race rolled around in September, the shirt hung off me like a nightgown.

This year, as shorts weather has given way to jeans weather, I’ve found that almost none of my fall clothes fit me any more. I’m down two pants sizes from 2011, and it seems that now I’m down two shirt sizes as well. I have to shop carefully, so I can get medium tops that are long enough in the sleeve, but I’m starting to swim in some of my Large stuff. Never did I imagine myself wearing a medium anything, since I haven’t since High School. But a growing portion of my wardrobe now sports an M where there once was an L, from bike shorts and boxers to t-shirts and sweaters. It’s the sort of thing that can make shopping fun.

Jul 262013

Now this is an entirely satisfactory number!

Four years ago, I decided I had had enough. Since meeting Katie, we had both gained somewhere around 60 pounds, and I found myself overweight, weak, and wheezing walking upstairs in our house. After having spent my whole life being skinny and eating however I wanted, I had simultaneously hit a metabolism wall, gone TDY for an extended period of time (read: beer, and a lot of it), and gotten my first of a few desk jobs. I was 225 lbs, and looked like somebody had inflated me with a pump full of jello.

Slowly, and in fits and starts at first, I started working to change that. I started lifting with some friends at work. I bought a cheap mountain bike off of Craigslist and started pedaling, at first only a few miles at a time. I brought my diet under control for the first time since High School. The following year, in 2010, I started jogging. I did a couple 5k races and got hooked on the high of the finish line, of conquering a distance I previously thought impossible.

That winter, I blew my right ACL at the gym, playing basketball with some high school kids. After surgery, I started rehab, and the challenge lit something else in me. During a session where they had me on a treadmill for the first time, one of my physical therapists started telling me the things I probably wouldn’t be doing any more, given the irreparable damage to the menisci in my knee. A voice in my head said, “oh, really?”

I finished my rehab program in half the allotted time, and started mountain biking and running more seriously. Another lengthy TDY sent me around the desert Southwest, and I used the opportunity, particularly in Southern California, to hone my skills on the bike. I fell off the wagon for awhile in Arizona, but then came back home with something to prove, and objectives to reach.

I spent all of last year learning lessons, some the hard way. I locked my diet down and cut to 195 lbs. I signed up for my first half marathon and trained all year for it, like I’ve never trained before in my life. It was hard, and I literally ran myself into injuries midway through the summer, but the personal victory of conquering the race was such a strong elixir, that I signed up for another one weeks later.

Last winter was spent recovering on doctor’s orders, brooding, scheming and reviewing lessons learned. I signed up for more races, including the Death March and more Half Marathons. I started lifting hard and heavy, determined to overcome the weaknesses that held me back on the bike and on foot last year. And I locked the diet down again, cutting the 10 pounds I had gained through the holidays and then five more, before race season started and I had to add some calories back in.

And finally, today, I reached a goal on the scale, to go along with all the goals I’ve reached on the trail, and the road, and in the weight room. I haven’t been this light since probably late 2006, and I’ve never been this strong and lean. While I’m not quite to the bodyfat percentage that I’d like to be, yet, I’m finally at a point where I feel that my weight isn’t holding me back, anywhere.

Did it take me 4 years to lose 40 lbs? That’s one way you could look at it, I suppose. I did lose 15 lbs in six weeks this year, and I’ve cut weight in a short amount of time before. But for me, the long view is more important, and maintaining the overall trend over time is what will count when I’m 60. The trick now is to stay at it, to keep running and riding and living, so I never find myself where I was in 2009, again.

Jul 182013
Feelin' jacktastic.

Feelin’ jacktastic.

I haven’t talked about it too much lately, but I am still lifting. Not as much as I’d like, and probably not as much as I should be, since my endurance training on foot and bike has been eating up the hours, but I’m in the weight room at least once a week. I can tell I’ve lost quite a bit of strength and mass since my high point back in April or so, but I’m still doing okay. And right after a workout, like when I snapped this picture, I feel like I still look halfway decent, too.

Next month is heavy into mountain bike racing, with the Fall FastLaps series and the JB 6-hour. I’m going to try to slip in a running race as well, so it’ll be a busy month, but I’ll still try to hit the weights 6-8 times, in addition to my regular bike and running training. After August, things start to taper off, and I look forward to getting back on track, shooting for my personal goals on the major lifts. I’m confident that the maintenance work I’ve been doing through the summer race season will pay off, and I’ll be starting from a much stronger point than I did last November.

Jun 072013

As much as I love to hate the Air Force Physical Fitness Test, it does provide one useful thing, in that I’ve had to do it for the last 12 years. Despite being a terrible measure of actual fitness, and despite a couple of reg changes over that time, it provides a somewhat instructive snapshot of my fitness journey over that time. The last six years are represented in the graph above.

2009 was the year of the wake-up call, for me. I was over 220 lbs, couldn’t run a mile without stopping, and was basically falling apart. And let’s just say that 37 inches was a very gracious measurement of my waist at that time. 75 is the minimum passing score for the Air Force, and I just eeked out a 75.9. That wasn’t good enough at all, and since the Guard had become my full time employer by that time, there were some serious consequences if I started failing.

I’ve had some setbacks and restarts since then, including a knee reconstruction and falling off the fitness wagon for a bit while on extended TDY, but the overall trend has been positive in the four years hence. I’m over 30 pounds lighter, several times stronger, and minutes-per-mile faster than I was then. I’m doing things now that I couldn’t and wouldn’t have dreamed of in 2009, like running half marathons and doing 6 hour bicycle races.

At some point, it clicked in my head that it was no longer acceptable to simply do things. I needed to start doing them well, and that’s when I started training seriously. This year’s test was my best ever, but there’s still room to improve. I was hoping to be into the 9s on my run, having done so well in practice the week prior, but I didn’t rest enough beforehand, and went in with sore legs. I missed my practice time by some 25 seconds, but still managed a 10:30, which is nearly a minute and a half faster than I’ve ever tested before. Can’t be mad at that.

As a data point, I’m happy with this year’s test, and I’m happy with how far I’ve come over the last two years. But I know that the race is long, much longer than any fitness test or individual event. I just have to keep going.

Apr 112013

Today marks one month since I decided to buckle down and cut the weight I needed to get rid of from the winter. Above are four graphs exported from MyFitnessPal, detailing that progression. With the exception of Easter, when I went full-beefcake, I’m happy with how consistent I’ve been with managing my intake.

It’s not been easy, but it has been effective. I’m down about 12 pounds, and I’ve taken two inches off my waist in a month, which I couldn’t be happier about. I hate having to watch my calories like this, so the faster it’s over, the better. Assuming only a minor change in lean body mass from a month ago, it also means I’ve lost about 5% bodyfat.

My target was two pounds down per week, and I’ve exceeded that by half. I plan to go a little less aggressive for the next month, as race season and my training intensity increases, so I can keep seeing big performance improvements while trimming off the last 10 lbs or so.

Mar 202013

I had by body fat tested yesterday, using a BODPOD they have on base. It’s an interesting device that uses pressurized air instead of water displacement to calculate body density, and from what I read, it’s pretty accurate.

The numbers at the top are of good use to me. Being at 25% body fat isn’t good, but it’s not shockingly awful either, and I’ve just started a pretty aggressive cut as we go into race season. I had set a preliminary goal of 185 on the scale, and judging by the numbers from this test, that’d be a pretty attainable and desirable goal. Assuming a modest gain in lean body mass over the next couple months, I should drop my body fat by about 10% by the time I reach 185.

It won’t be easy, but then, nothing worth doing ever is.

Jan 052013

Starting point for this year. I’m hoping that the next few months of intensive weight training will yield some good gains in strength and definition. Also need to drop those love handles! That’ll happen when I can start conditioning hard again. Right now I’m on a 2 month restriction, trying to heal up a couple injuries from last season. Conditioning starts in 3 weeks!

Jan 042013

Where I’ve come from. This is January, 2009, and about 25 lbs heavier than I am now (with way, way less muscle!). It’s hard to be content with my progress to date, but sometimes it’s useful to look at this and realize, at least I’m not there anymore.