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.

Feb 122013

wear patternRecently retired my two pairs of Kinvara 3s. I have loved these shoes and rotated between the two pair. They both have well in excess of 400 miles on them so recently shelled out the $100 and got a new pair. This picture shows one of the old shoes on the left and the coresponding new one on the right. The outer edge reveals where I land. I am definitely not an overpronator! One of the hard rubber lugs is totally obliterated and the two outer white rubber lugs are gone… hmmm, could explain why I was feeling a little less cushion. The shoe on the right has 20 miles on it and feels like a dream.

Feb 012013

I’ve switched my long runs to Monday since that is my day off. It makes more sense than Saturday for me since Linda is home and we often have things to do with family, friends, and church on the weekend. Well this Monday was cold and windy in Bennington, Vermont so just did 6 on the treadmill ’cause I had my eye on Wednesday which was forecast to be in the 50’s. The temperature climbed in the morning and by midday it was over 60!

My LED armband

I wasn’t able to get home from the office until almost 4 – finally got changed, slipped on the new Kinvara 3’s for their first outdoor experience, velcroed on my armband with the blue LEDs (dusk was already smudging the cloudy sky) kissed the wife and told her I would be back in 2+ hours since my long run was scheduled for 15 miles and headed out.

Night runs have not been my favorite since a branch on a roadside bush knocked my glasses off a couple years ago. They still bear a scar on the edge of one of the lenses. But the long run was already late by a couple of days and I am determined to qualify for Boston so there was not a question about going out into the evening.

The air was heavy enough to cut with a knife but delightfully warm after some days below zero recently. I headed downtown and did a loop that covered almost 5 miles. It brought me to a convenience store on the corner of Beech St. I went in and bought a Powerade, drank a good slug and started out Beech St. toward South Stream Road knowing I needed to go out about 4 1/2 miles before heading home. Traffic was light and my blinking armband really worked as cars obviously altered their course to give me room when they saw me. I stashed the Powerade (still half full) by the stop sign where Morgan St. joins Beech St. and becomes South Stream Road

South Stream Road steadily runs uphill as it goes south. My Garmin Training Center later reflected the fact that I gradually climbed from about 625′ altitude at my house to just shy of 1200′ when I made the turn for home but the legs felt good and I knew when I made the turn it would be a fun fast finish. (love to run those downgrades!)

By the time I reversed course it was almost totally dark – really dark with the cloud cover. A faint glow from my armband glistened on the pavement around me. A gentle rain began to fall which was delightfully cooling. I ran. Just ran… for the joy of running. Through the Vermont countryside passing barns, fields, and occasional houses, saluted invisibly by the occasional dog inside a house who could hear my cushioned footfalls. I reached the fish hatchery. As I passed the lowest pool I could just see the water roll as a big trout rose – I smiled to myself imagining the heavy rainbow looking for a late snack.

The rain stopped – I kept running. I came to the corner of Morgan, picked up the Powerade and finished it off. It went down easily and delightfully. I started off again happily enjoying the ability to run smoothly beside the guardrail. The countryside gave way to a denser residential area as I neared town. I took the Beech St. fork nearing Main St. – a mile and a half to go. Turning onto Main the street lights and shop signs glinted theatrically off the specks of water on my glasses. I pushed the pace now pressing to empty the tank. Turning the corner at Benmont – a half mile to go, what fun!

I eased to a jog and then a walk at the foot of Leonard St. savoring the last of the cool damp air before I reached our house. Opening the door I felt spent but full of satisfaction and gratitude. The Lord is good. I am grateful for the gift of running and grateful for this special night.

Feb 012013

Balboa ParkSo here’s a picture of the grandson with grandma, mom and dad in the background. We were at Balboa Park in San Diego last year. Wish it was that warm here now.  :-)

Love being a grandpa – just kind of surprising in a way when you find yourself getting older… in another month I will be 64! I am sure that the running is in some ways an attempt to respond to that aging process or at least manage it.

I am glad that I can still “gallop” – well, maybe canter a little.