Sep 012015

Okay, so these aren’t really my shoes… didn’t have a photo of them.

I did my long run today instead of yesterday. This is a cut-back week on my training program so it was 13 miles instead of 18-20. The Furman University Institute of Running program (First to the Finish) I am following called for a good solid pace though – Planned Marathon Pace + 15 seconds. For me that works out to 9:35. I got out before it got too hot since I was planning on putting the pedal down some. The run went well and felt good – finished with an overall 9:34 pace, praise the Lord!

My Achilles tendons, especially the left one, are tight and a little sore – not totally unexpected after 13 miles at my age (66) at that pace but I suspect there is something else… I’m running in a pair of Adidas Boston Adizeros which I have really liked. I switched to them about a year ago after running for 3 or 4 years in successive pairs of Saucony Kinvaras which I loved. I went to them because they have a little more drop to help my Achilles. Despite the inability to run last fall and winter because of Lyme Disease, the Adizeros probably have over 500 miles on them and the cushion is just not what it was.


Aug 192015

My Specialized in front of a spectacular hydrangea on Houran Road in Bennington, VT

My long run this week was 18 miles on Monday – a good report again… the Achilles tendons felt good with no repercussions the next day. I confess I did take a couple of Ibuprofen the day before to keep inflammation down.

My pace at 10:22 was slightly slower than optimum. The training program called for 45-60 seconds slower than Planned Marathon Pace. My PMP is 9:20 so I  was 7 seconds a mile slow. In spite of that I felt good about it because the temperature was 78, the relative humidity was 70, and the last 3 miles I put it in gear and ran 9:30 pace even though I was tired.

Next Monday I am scheduled for my first of 5 twenty milers despite the fact that I have yet to register for a marathon this fall – got to get busy on that.

Oh yeah, the bike ride this morning turned out longer than expected – I planned to do 15-20 but hit an interesting back road I hadn’t been on, wound up over in New York State… 27 miles, Fun!

Aug 112015

Matteson Road, N. Bennington, VT

I don’t carry my phone when I run – don’t like it banging around, not to mention the extra weight, so I am taking a photo on one of my cross-training bike days to post each week. Hope you enjoy the photos of God’s creation in beautiful Vermont and neighboring NY and MA.

This pic is of my Specialized Allez Elite. In the background on the right is Mount Anthony.

Last week was an easy week since I was the speaker at a camp (White River Christian Camp, White River Junction, Vermont) where I had a great time. I skipped my long run altogether, did a strong 7 miler on Tuesday and a 5 mile cruise on Thursday that felt really good. This week I got back on schedule with a long run on Monday (yesterday) of 16 miles. It’s the first time I have run that far in over 2 years.

Two years ago both Achilles tendons would have been demanding ice. Today they are happy. 1 year ago I was barely walking let alone running as I was in the grip of full-blown Lyme Disease. Today I am a little stiff and the right knee is slightly achy on stairs (Lyme) but overall I am overjoyed at the progress.

The pace was 10:16 per mile – certainly not scintillating but acceptable for my long run pace at this point. Ideally, Furman (I am following a training program called “First to the Finish” developed by Furman University) called for a PMP (Projected Marathon Pace) + 45. That would put me at 10:05, so not too far off.

Next week – an 18 mile long run, then a 20!

Jul 302015

Beside Rte. 68 (upstate NY)

I snapped this pic yesterday at the turnaround point of a 22 mile bike ride. Yes, this is a blog about running… let me explain – I ran the Lehigh Valley Marathon in May of 2013. It was the third marathon in a year for me. I was unable to finish – my legs just would not work after about the 20 mile mark. My Achilles tendon in both legs had been very sore previous to the race (apparently too many miles in preparation) I had iced them after my runs and expected them to recover – alas, they did not. I wound up having to take most of the rest of 2013 off. They were still sore as I was getting back on the road in the spring of 2014. It was then that I contracted Lyme disease! I didn’t see a tick and didn’t develop a rash so it was a few months until I was diagnosed. Besides the fevers and exhaustion caused by this nasty affliction (which I initially passed off as a case of the flu) my right knee had become tender and swollen. I thought I had stressed or injured it running. Finally, when I could barely walk I went to the Dr. He examined me and said, “Maybe you have hurt your knee running but I am going to test you for Lyme. One out of every ten knee problems we see now is caused by Lyme disease.” That was in June of last year. I was hardly able to walk, let alone run for months. During the winter my elliptical saw some use and in Jan., Feb., and Mar. I swam laps at the local pool three days a week but the knee still had some swelling and both ankles were still tender. In April I began to venture out on the road a little bit – short runs, no watch, just enjoying the feeling of running again. In the last couple months I have begun training again using a modified program from the Furman Institute (First to the Finish). They recommend that older runners dial back to 3 key runs a week and cross train 2 days a week which is where the biking comes in. Riding seems to have helped my knee through the last stages of healing and also seems to provide a stretching effect for the tendons. My legs feel the best they have in over two years. So… back in the saddle, riding and running. Thank you Lord!

May 022013

beet juiceT minus 3!

It’s Friday morning and the New Jersey Marathon is Sunday… I should be crossing the start line almost exactly 73 hours from now. I’m feeling pretty good – dealing with a few taper nerves and just general excitement. After my highest mileage weeks a couple of weeks ago both Achilles tendons were feeling tight and a little sore but they have both bounced back with the reduced load.

My pre-run weight is flirting with the 155 lb. mark. While I wish it was a few pounds lower I am grateful to be making at least slow progress on that front. Weather looks good for the weekend – about 50 degrees at race time, low wind, partly sunny… can’t ask for much better.

I’m going to do 4 easy today, probably take tomorrow off then a mile or two jog on Saturday. Tomorrow night I plan to enjoy an nice carb-rich dinner. Saturday morning we’ll drive down to New Jersey.

My  strength is the Lord but I am experimenting with beet juice – supposed to help the oxygen uptake. I ordered some through the local health food store and have started drinking it the last couple of days – kinda gives you the shivers but what won’t we runners do for a little extra speed and strength? The juice is VERY purple, powerfully so. Powerful enough to turn everything violet if you know what I mean. :-)

Apr 172013

I did my 14 mile run yesterday thinking and praying for Boston and the people affected by the horrific terror attack there at the marathon. I encountered a few people out walking/running with Boston Red Sox shirts on (I wished I had one). I waved and commented to each as we passed, “Praying for Boston.” They all responded verbally or nodded – seemed like a way many of us processed and honored those who were hurt in the senseless violence.

Well, I am 2 and 1/2 weeks out from the New Jersey Marathon. My goal is still to qualify to be at the starting line in Hopkington on Patriots’ Day next year.

Back to the weight loss subject… Cartoon-Fit-Senior-Man-RunningAs 2013 appeared on the horizon my post-run weight had crept back up over 160 lbs but I was armed with new determination to get my weight into the 150’s on an ongoing basis. I knew that diet was a big part of the weight loss picture but have to admit that I didn’t know very much about the whole nutrition thing. I realized that I needed to learn more about “food” words that I did not understand. I am convinced that a great number of people don’t know a calorie from a carbohydrate! Thus began an effort to assimilate knowledge about the different kinds of food and how the body processes nutrients. I am not a nutritionist or dietician so far be it from me to attempt to explain all that stuff. Suffice it to say that in the last couple of months of 2012 I spent a fair amount of time online learning about diet and meal plans. What I settled on as a strategy was modifying my eating habits to further control portions, limit carbohydrates and extra snacks while emphasizing vegetable and fruit consumption and maintaining a good balance of protein and fat. I enjoy cooking and do most of the meal preparation at our house and at least half of the grocery shopping so this seemed all very doable. To assist my efforts and provide some examples I printed out three examples of meal plans to give me some fresh ideas. Of course, as previously noted, I planned to ramp up into a little more aggressive training program mileage wise and add in some core work. This would all help in the weight loss effort by burning more calories.

I was also ready to face up to the truth that weighing myself AFTER a run was all well and good but thinking that those figures represented my actual weight was fooling myself so I began stepping on the scale before a run as well as after two to four times a week. I started logging those figures as well as my body fat percentage. This led to establishing a goal weight. Prior to this I didn’t have any way of determining what might be a good target weight to aim at. An understanding of body fat percentage is very useful in figuring out a healthy race day weight. There is some difficulty in measuring body fat percentage and a variety of ways to go about it. Variability amongst individuals as well as how this all relates to people as they age complicates the matter not to mention the inaccuracy of the bio-impedance measuring device included in my scale. Nevertheless my regular weigh-ins provide a reference for me regardless of absolute accuracy.

I started logging my pre-run weight and body fat percentage figures the first week in February of 2013. By that time my pre-run weight had fallen to  158 lbs – the new meal plan was working! My body fat percentage that week was 20.6%. The body fat percentage charts that I found reflect a “fitness” level body fat range for 60 year old and up males of 17% to as high as 20%. I decided to take the 17% figure as a goal. Projecting the weight I would have attain to achieve a 17% figure requires a little math… first you have to determine your lean body mass (a number you don’t want to see decrease as it represents muscle, bone, and organ weight) from there you can calculate your weight at a certain body fat percentage (please see any of the body fat percentage sites for the process). At 17% body fat I would weigh somewhere between 151 and 152 pounds. 152 lbs became my goal weight for race day on May 5.

Sad to say I won’t achieve that for this race. My weight and body fat percentage continue to decline but at a slow rate (too much snacking). Currently they are 156.5 lbs and 20.0 respectively. I reset my goal last week for race day weight to 154 lbs which I think I can reach if I’m careful. This would still be a 5 lb reduction from my race day weight at the Mohawk-Hudson Marathon last fall. At 2 seconds per pound per mile it represents more than 4 minutes and 20 seconds over the course of 26.2 miles.

Mar 272013

Early in 2012 I registered for the Hudson-Mohawk Marathon. It’s an honest 26.2 course in my neck of the woods – just an hour away. The course runs from the city of Schenectady to Albany, the capital city of New York. The Hudson-Mohawk is held in early October so as the frigid months of January, February, and March of 2012 passed I slogged along on the treadmill at a moderate 17 mile a week pace and gratefully transitioned to the roads as Spring bloomed.

I spent some time learning about marathon training. I became conversant with terms like “tempo run,” “long slow distance,” and “VO2max” etc. etc. I designed my own training program after reading everything I could find. That training program was modified many times Modifying my training program seems to be a never ending process as I have done the same thing with the one for the New Jersey Marathon as I learn more and become better at listening to my 60-something-year-old body. During the summer I added a new element – speed work at the local high school track which is only a nice warm-up mile away from the house – usually once a week.

I was tracking my weight all this time consistently weighing myself after every run. Below is a chart that reflects my post-run weight from Jan. of 2010 through the present. (Red is 2010, green is 2011, blue is 2012, purple is 2013) You can see that in 2012 after an initial frustrating four month “float” between 163 lbs and 165 lbs the digital numbers on the WW scale finally began to creep down as I entered the higher mileage weekly totals. The only thing I was doing to help from the nutrition standpoint was a little portion control.

Post Run WeightYou can see that the higher mileage and portion control began to have an effect in May. My weight bottomed out just under 155 lbs the week of the marathon. Of course, that was my POST-RUN average. My actual weight when I stepped to the starting line for the Hudson-Mohawk Marathon was 159 lbs.

Notice that my weight began a steady climb following the race as I eased off on mileage and we entered the holiday season. I was also dealing with the disappointment of running 4:10:53 in the marathon when I had visions of being a half hour faster (see previous post “Disappointed not Defeated”). But I am persistent and resilient so I reviewed the mistakes I made on race day and resolved not to repeat them. I thought about how I could improve my preparation for the next attempt at qualifying for Boston, and plotted a campaign for the new year. This new campaign would feature an assault on a marathon but with better training focused on my weaknesses and a nutritional plan that would shave off additional pounds.

My next post on weight loss will discuss what has been working for me in my new nutritional plan, my struggles with it, and my actual weight goal.

Mar 052013
Linda and I at the start of the 2010 Hamptons Half Marathon

Linda and I at the start of the 2010 Hamptons Half Marathon

Recovering from the hip pointer took time but I could run again so I was back on track to losing weight. Registering for a race helped motivate me before even though the injury kept me from toeing the starting line so I looked for a fall half marathon on a fairly flat course within driving distance. I found the Hamptons Half Marathon in East Hampton, NY It was way out on the end of Long Island but Linda and I decided to make it a fun weekend trip. We would take the ferry from Connecticut and stay overnight so I could be fresh for the race. She would provide encouragement, of course. When we told our boys, Josh, who lived in Greenwich, CN at the time said he would be delighted to make the drive out to cheer me on. Nathan and Rachel were also encouraging but much too far away in San Diego to participate.

My weight loss goals were fairly unfocused at that point. I didn’t even have a number in mind. I simply knew that I still had a bulge around my middle that had to go. My plan was also pretty rudimentary – no dieting, just, Run baby, run! As my hip healed I was able to consistently log weekly mileage in the twenties – not tremendouly high but not bad considering that I was still in my first year of running at the age of 60 and had never run before. My high mileage week that summer topped out at 29.1. As the mileage went up the weight continued to slowly go down.

I couldn’t weigh myself on race day in East Hampton since we were in a motel but my log shows that my post-run weigh-ins that week averaged 163.3 lbs. That figure is certainly low by at least 1.7 lbs but even so I was lighter by about 35 lbs than I had been 2 years previously. (If you are interested you can read my account of the 2010 Hamptons Half Marathon in my previous post entitled, “Hamptons Half Marathon Report”.)

In the months following the race I slacked off on mileage during the holidays. My typical weekly total was in the teens even dipping into single digits. By the time the new year rolled around my weight had crept back up to 168 lbs.

Me on the right at 163.5 - still a little belly.

Me on the right at 163.5 – still a little belly.

All of 2011 my weight oscillated in a fairly narrow 7 lb range (167.4 – 160.4). There was only one week where I drove it below 160. (These figures are again all post-run figures before eating and rehydrating so actual weight was certainly 2-3 lbs greater). I averaged an honest 18.1 miles a week for the year but was not disciplined in my eating habits in the slightest. I should probably clarify that. I have never been a fast-food junkie. I don’t eat large amounts of red fatty meats. I like fruit, salads, and vegetables… of course I also have a pretty demanding sweet tooth. So while my diet was relatively healthy in content it was undisciplined in amount. It was somewhere in the fall of 2011 after my second Hamptons Half Marathon that I began to seriously toy with the idea of running a full marathon – something I had gone on record as saying that I would NOT do.It was during the training for the ensuing Mohawk-Hudson Marathon that it dawned on me that I needed to modify my eating habits. It was obvious to me that weight affected speed and stamina – Doh. The weight loss that I had achieved, I realized, was equivalent to shedding the burden of carrying two bowling balls around. My thoughts turned to how much easier it would be to run carrying even less excess weight and how that would affect my speed.

From the beginning speed was important to me – turns out I am a little competitive :-) I understand the young bucks are going to out-pace me but I have developed a liking for winning or placing in my age group. A little online investigation showed that, on average, a one pound loss equals a two second gain in pace per mile (all things being equal). This information reinvigorated my weight loss efforts.

The proverbial “fly in the ointment” raised its head however – I began to find that while the first 35 lbs had come off relatively easily there was this God-created self preservation mode that the body employs to defend against losing its store of fat. This makes it increasingly difficult to lose weight as you approach your goal. So while exercise initially sufficed I realized it was going to take disciplining my calorie intake to lose more poundage.

Armed with this new-found knowledge and a fresh determination I entered 2012 committed to reach a new target weight. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be but it would definitely be in the 150’s – more on that in the next post.

Feb 192013

I continued to run every week following the visit by my son and daughter-in-law in July of 2009. Most of the runs were 3 or 4 miles. Later in the Fall I did a few 5 milers, a couple 6’s and on one crazy afternoon at the end of November I covered 8 miles. As I grew slightly sleeker the miles passed a little easier and faster. My log shows my average pace at those distances descending through 10 minutes into the mid 9’s.

scaleBy the beginning of 2010 the running was having a noticable effect – I was back into a 36″ waist. I started weighing myself after my runs. (I realize this is cheating in a way – the water loss makes you appear to weight less but hey, when you are starting out you need all the encouragement you can get.) The first weight I have listed in my log is January 11, 2010. Linda had picked up one of those cool Weight Watcher style scales that gives a digital readout of your weight, body fat percentage, bone density, water percentage, and body mass index by sending very low voltage through your lower extremities when you stand on the scale. I realize the accuracy is suspect in some of those areas but at least it gave me something to work with. The digital numbers for my weight on the nifty little scale that cold day in January staring up at me were 177.0. I was encouraged. Actually I was elated! Under 180 – Alright! I didn’t pay much attention to the other metrics at that point although I now tracking my body fat percentage also.

I started to weigh myself regularly now that I had a scale and could see that I was making progress. I also began to do some crunches (some push-ups too). After all everybody knows crunches are how you lose that stomach, right? (heh heh). By the first week of March the scale read 171.0. Then disaster struck…

It was Friday night March 12 at the youth meeting we do on Friday nights. That afternoon I had run 3 miles at an 8:39 clip – not blazing speed but a long way from where I had started. I had registered for the La Jolla Half Marathon near San Diego, CA. Rachel and I were planning to run it together on April 25 when we were flying out to visit them. But everything changed that evening at the Youth meeting. Somehow as I was emceeing the meeting my feet got tangled up and I fell, crashing to the concrete floor. All my weight came down on my left hip – on that round protruding portion of bone at the top of your thigh (It’s called the greater trochanter).  The pain was excruciating. Nausea threatened to overcome me as I lay stunned on the floor. People helped me to my feet and I limped to a safe spot to watch the rest of the meeting.

The next morning I could barely walk… A visit to the doctor confirmed my self diagnosis via WebMD that I had suffered a hip pointer – an injury affecting many of the muscles in the hip, pelvis, and leg that pass over or connect at the top of the femur. To make a long story short it was 9 weeks before I could even jog let alone run. It was disappointing when I stepped on the scale after I could finally run slowly on May 17 and saw that the scale read 175.5. My running pace also took a real hit – bummer!

I missed the La Jolla Half of course. Nevertheless I had discovered the motivational power of being registered for a race. This little secret has helped fuel my weight loss over the last 3 years.

Feb 152013

Four years ago I tipped the scales at 200 lbs. It was the most I had ever weighed. In my younger years I stood 5′ 10 1/2″ tall. At the age of 60 I was surprised to find that I had shrunk (a normal process because of contracting spinal discs and cartilage, etc.). I now stand barely 5′ 9″. 200 lbs was too much for 5′ 10 1/2″. It was certainly too much for the shorter version of me.

When I was growing up I promised myself I would never have a belly… well, now I had one. It may not have been huge by some people’s standard but somehow the years and my lack of attention had conspired to give me a bulging midriff. I read somewhere that on average we put on a pound a year after about the age of 25 – that and a little more for me! I was buying pants with a 38″ waist. I tried my best to ignore the situation but that’s difficult when it is right in front of you. I remember sitting on the couch one evening. I looked down at my stomach actually surprised at the fact that I looked like I had swallowed a bowling ball.

Maybe it was that little memory that got me started walking in the Spring… actually, as I think back, it was my wife Linda that got me off the couch – as the weather started to warm she was already walking some evenings after work.. She would do 2-3 miles downtown. At her urging I started joining her… but there was a problem (We laugh at this now). Linda liked to walk fast – she motored right along at 3 1/2 to 4 miles an hour. I, on the other hand thought our walks should be more along the lines of a leisurely stroll. Part of it was that I was physically unused to exerting myself at that level (As a pastor, much of my time is spent behind a desk). Part of it was that I thought it would be relaxing. The other thing was that silly pride that us men have – I wanted to set the pace.

Well, I finally got it through my head that Linda had a good idea and we really started to enjoy the evening walks 3 or 4 times a week even stretching the distance out to 4 miles – longer sometimes. I wasn’t weighing myself then but it wasn’t too long before a couple of people at church commented that I was slimming down. When I went to our family Doctor for a long overdue physical in May I tipped the office scale at 189 lbs.

Family 4thSix weeks later came the fateful visit from our older son Nathan, his wife Rachel, and our grandson William. They were here over the Fourth of July weekend. Rachel was training for a marathon and that Sunday morning before church she ran 14 miles. that was the catalyst for what happened that week along with a family photo showing us all smiling at Grandma Joyce’s house wearing red-white-and-blue leis around our necks. It is a nice photo except that there I am with a pot belly! Sunday in church I observed how I admired Rachel for her running prowess and commented that I had thought some about running and “maybe someday would start.”

Upon arriving home Nathan and Rachel confronted me, challenging me to join them on their morning runs the next few days while they were here. They destroyed my excuses and that Monday I huffed and puffed my way through three agonizingly slow miles (11:30 pace) stopping every few minutes to suck oxygen into my heaving lungs. It was the same story on Tuesday and Wednesday. Nathan and Rachel were very encouraging and patient.  Thursday they flew out. Friday dawned and I was faced with a choice – run again, by myself, or retire to the couch. I laced up the heavy old sneakers I had and went out the door – partly because I am very stubborn, I hate to quit; partly because there was a far off hope that I could actually run even though I was 60, and partly because I really wanted to lose weight. Rachel had also tantalized me with the insane thought of running a half marathon with her the next spring in California when we would visit them.

At any rate, for whatever mix of motives I found myself struggling up Main St. (yes, it’s uphill on the way out). But when I got home there was a strange exhiliration and sense of accomplishment and I hadn’t needed to stop to breathe quite as many times. I ran five days that week – three miles each time; three days the next week (I’ve logged every run I’ve ever done) – by that time I was hooked. The next week I bought a pair of running shoes and opened a little box that came in the mail. It was one of the best gifts I have ever recieved – a brand new Garmin Forerunner 305 complete with the heartrate monitor. It was from Nathan and Rachel.

I don’t think we actually had a scale in the house at the time or if there was it lived upstairs in the spare bathroom where I never saw it so I didn’t weigh myself until well into the next year (2010). But I knew that if I ran I would start to lose weight. I also knew that it had taken a long time to put on the layer of fat and it would take a while to take it off. Little did I know the set-back that awaited me in the spring of 2010 or that the day would come when I would be striving to lose a pound to gain 2 seconds a mile.