Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Vistas broaden

** This was an old draft for April.

So it seems that the old I get the more I am "appreciating" older women in terms of looks. When talking to Lisa about it, she smiled and said, "so you are maturing and appreciating the finer qualities older women have."

I looked at her and said, "no really, it feels more like I am just broadening my spectrum of what's "appealing" ."

I know that guys are often labeled as a creature that will screw anything that walks, but that has seldom been my case. In fact, one might wonder how I was ever so picky looking much like I do. LOL

To be honest, the way I view ladies all seems to be changing now. One thing that I find weird are my feeling towards girls literally 1/2 my age. I mean I live in a college town and go to that college, so I see a lot of girls deemed "hot" every day, but that rarely seems to matter like it did years ago. Sure some are good looking and you have a quick look, but rarely more than that and never more than "wow."

It's like something inside you gives you a feeling of "disconnect," to the thought of hotness. More like the eyes and hormones seem to be on different levels of interest.

This is not a complaint, but more an observation of how it feels to age and how we approach life in those key moments.

I think a lot of the disconnect comes from personality rather than looks. Young people seem to be shallow, (not meaning petty) but meaning lacking experiences and worldliness that makes for great conversation and stories. Also, I think older women tend to have a higher value of how they see themselves, and that in itself is sexy. Confidence is definitely key, smart sarcasm too.

Maybe we all age like this, we grow from something simple to something complex, like a finely aged wine all of our experiences shape us into interesting individuals.

Truth be told...

Scales & photos don't lie like our eyes do.

After my Xterra experience I was forced to face a few facts, OK 1. I'm FAT!
Am I as large as some, no. Am I as small as some, that is a resounding HELL NO!

I feel a little more like our friend Homer Simpson than I do me these days.

So after a little soul searching, I decided (along with Lisa) to finally invest in a scale, something that I haven't seen in years. Wow, scales have come a long way since the day of yester. Confused by all the gimmicks and such, Lisa and I settled on a WeightWatchers scale which allows for up to 4 user profiles and tells you your weight and BodyFat %. There was one a little more money (twice the price) that actually tells your water % too, but $60.00 is a lot for a scale.

Moment of truth came yesterday morning when I got on the scale and in fact I believe the reading came back "FAT ASS!". OK, not really, but I certainly was a little heavier than I feel comfortable with, like 208lbs @ a whopping 28.1% body fat.

YIKES, no wonder I wasn't as cold as the others I was swimming with last week, I am a whale in comparison.

Well, enough said about my weight and now what am I to do about it? Lisa and I have both added about the same weight since we've been together, the only thing is Lisa has gained an 1" of height and doesn't show her extra baggage like the other.

So at a claimed 28 body fat @ 208, I can loose about 55lbs to get to a 153lb and be ZERO BF, but that is just not possible, so a more realistic goal would be to take that NET weight of 153 and add 15% to it. (Under 20% for a male is OK)

At 15% BF, My target goal is 177lbs, but to be honest I'd be happy around 180-183lbs, something I haven't seen in about 7 - 8 years. I usually hover around 187-192 in summer and 200lbs in winter.

Diet is not the issue, as I eat well. I barely eat foods that are premade besides turkey sausage, spaghetti, etc; unless we eat out. Even then Lisa and I usually eat at places that like Mexican, Pizza, or Sushi which is all made to order.

Lisa and I do splurge and hit Five Guys once is a while, but that might come to a halt soon after viewing their Nutrition Facts. You see, they claim the use of "lean" meat, but what is considered lean?
In fact, 1 beef patty is 19gr of fat (280 cals), a bun 9gr (250 cals), and fries 1/2 serving = 310 cals @ 15gr of fat.

So a typical dinner sees each of use eating a min. of 45gr of fat and about 900 cals, not to mention any peanuts that you eat while waiting for your food. Now this is muc h better than Mikey D's or BK which have burgers that put a Five Guys whole dinner to shame in fat content.

Still, that doesn't make me feel much better and is an easy way to drop an extra 1000-2000 cals per month from my diet. Mind you, every 3000 cals = 1 lb of fat.

So, I will stick with my diet for fresh foods, most uncooked when possibly and cooked when needed. I will increase my intake of leaner cuts of meat like chicken, turkey, and even pork <-- YES, you can have lean cuts of pork.

So Goal one: Loose 10 - 15 lbs by Sept 1, 2007. It'll be the remaining 10- 15 lbs that will be the hardest and longer to drop.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Triresome?! Not really!

Warning, this was long as I have a ton of recapping to do. My intent is to be able to read this next year as a reference.

I am blogging my weekend events a few days afterwards so that I can better sort out

how I felt all weekend as I am no longer just caught up in the moment.

My strongest feelings still move to the awesome feeling of support that my friends and Lisa sent my way during the race. It's an incredible feeling to have your name cheered by friends all along a race course, it gives you a huge boost to keep up the struggle and push on despite a weary body.

Mark Sunday the 17th of June the day I dared to overachieve. Well, that is what always tell my friends that they do when they decide to race involving physical endurance.

Today was a different day though, it was my turn to see what I was made of, to see if I could push my way through a tri course all the way to the finish line.

Inspired by Jared, other friends, and some great people that I met during the Ace's Adventure Xterra 2 weeks earlier I got to thinking, "I can do that, I should do that!" And that is exactly what I set out to do.

Xterra Richmond (James River Adventure Games) was only 2 weeks away and this would be my last real chance of the year to tri out Xterra locally. I should mention that I did the "Sport" Xterra, not the Championship race. The difference being that the Sport is only a portion of each leg of the championship race. IE: Swim was 850m vs 1000m, BIke was 14.1 mls vs. 18 mls, run was 5k vs 10k.

Now really the swim was supposed to be only 500m, but 2 days out Xterra officials thought it nice to bump up the swim for us to 850m. I was thinking YIKES as my last swim to actually swim/practice was when I was like 13, maybe 15 and here I am at 37 thinking am I gonna drowned attempting this? Quite a few friends gave me a pretty confused/ bewildered look when they heard about my swimming history . My main thought was more about that I knew how to swim, I was just out of practice for it.

Prior to the race, I tried to complete each leg of the race if for no other reason than to have a better understanding of what I was in for on race day. Not being someone who races, I just tried to eat well and relax most of the week prior to the race.

With a 4 days of the race, I went out and did a light ride, followed up with a practice run at the swim. A huge thanks to my friends Audrey, Blake, & Heather for being kind enough to help me out and show me the swim route. What a rude awakening I had the night of my first swim since a lifetime ago. Once you know how to swim, its easy to remember and take back up, but controlling your breathing via getting in a rhythm it what is so difficult.

Our swim started out at the boat landing on Brown's island; we all get into our bare essentials for the swim and enter the water. The air temp was 68* and the water was 72*. I was feeling a little newbie for sure as everyone had water shoes & goggles, while I was there with just a swim suit & a gut full of in-trepidation to overcome.

There is something about looking across a river that you know nothing about and knowing that this is an all or nothing venture. The goal is to swim to the eastern end of Bird Island that hovers about 110 meters from shore entering into 2 distinct currents each about 30 meters wide separated by slower moving water before rounding the island and heading up the back (Southern side) to the far western side of the island, than heading back to shore rounding a buoy before heading back to the Northside of the island for another bouy before heading back to shore.

So in reality, we would be crossing the same section of the James River 3x, just each about 50 meters apart creating a zigzag before finishing at the launch site.

On my first trip out I was about 70/30 on whether I should even be considering trying this, but I was doing a good job of keeping self-doutb suppressed while feeding my brain real things to think about with worthwhile questions about how to, what, where, when, etc.

The James is always unpredictable when it comes to depth and this year was no different. On my Thursday's swim the river was at 4'2" and was expected to be 4'6" for the race. As a reference a week earlier it was 5'6" (5' being mandatory life-vests to enter) and in recent year for the race, its' been as low as 1'6" to almost 7' for the race.

Too late to turn back...
Up to my knees in brown river water, the air around me is the same as the water in which I stand. As goggles and last minute chit-chat are set in place, a brief "see you out there" was spoken before 4 separate splashes broke the waters surface. " I'm doing it! This isn't so bad?!" I actually had to keep slowing down to stay behind those that know the river and currents. My goal was to follow their lead and if I could stay far enough behind I could use their body english to know the conditions I was about to enter.

Current one was almost immediate, only about 20' out from shore and that is because the pillars that support the train trestles (sp) were there, otherwise the natural bend of the river would've had the current right on point.

Feeling good 1/2 way out...
Stoked that I was feeling fine and keeping up about 1/2 out to Bird Island, but no sooner did I think that than suddenly I started to feel my heart rate soar. I tried to slow up but we are now entering the 2nd current and my brain is telling me I should start to worry. All that slowing up did was started to see me drop off the back of the group while fighting to stay on point for the island tip.

My heart was pounding, and all that slowing up accomplished was putting distance between me and my friends, along with becoming increasingly vulnerable to the strong current. While I tried to keep moving forward, doubt did creep into to my mind, "what if this, what if that?" I was trying very hard to keep my cool, but that feeling of being in the middle of a river (any body of water) while rapidly getting tired as catching my breath was almost impossible was quickly becoming overwhelming.

Finally I let out a quick (seemingly calm) call for anyone who might be able to touch ground. About 10 sec later Blake yells back that he found a rock where I could stand. Once I heard this, my brain was able to focus on the 50' that I needed to recoup.

Once I was able to catch my breath, the lesson was learned and I stuck to a pace that was keeping my HR even keel. I knew that this like most sports is not just about knowing how to swim, but enduring the fatigue and mental challenge of keeping your own pace, not that of others. This was a great lesson to learn before the race, and when helped me for the rest of the swim, the swim of the clinic the following night, and during the race.

Fast forward to race day:
The race starts at 8am sharp, so my day started around 5:30am. Breakfast was a 1/2 cup of coffee, small bowl of oatmeal and a small bowl of fruit. I did my best to hydrate in the days prior to the race, so that I would not have to feel "water-logged" from drinking too much on race day.

The nerves were pretty calm, mostly because I was doing something so different that I didn't feel the same pressures as the other racers might be; for me, goal 1 was to finish the race. Knowing that my swim could be the death of my race, that was my main focal point and to accomplish the swim, I knew that remaining calm and collected was the only way to make it.

Everything was packed the night before, so my early rise was more to just get the body awake and some food in me a few hours before the race. Check-in / Transition set-up opened at 6:30am, so I was aiming to be there between then and 7pm.

6:30am rolls around; gear:Check!, race numbers: Check!, water/race food: Check! Tire pressures good: Check! I'm on my way to Brown's. I opted to ride my bike to the race, I figured it would help to loosen me up, get the HR up at least once, etc.

The parks are beautiful at that time of the morning, a slight haze through dark greens of the forests that are being penetrated by the yellow-orangish hues of morning sunlight. It was inspiring to was the woods wake up as I just had, you can feel the energy from nature beaming all around you.

One my way in to the city I only ran across one other, he was doing the same as I and riding to the race.

Still calm I arrived at the numbering station, Jen (an Xterra Rep from the land of the outdoor gods [read Asheville, NC] was who numbered me. Perhaps my worst most nervous moment of the days happened at the numbering station as I was informed that that I should remove my shirt so hat the 3 huge numbers wouldn't bleed into my jersey. Trust me, no one wants to see me shirtless, me being the first. Once the numbers were printed on my, it was official, I was a racing today.

I was still mostly unnerved by what was about to happen, maybe it was because there were many friends around me that were about to go through the same thing. Really, I felt that I was part of something big, almost larger than life. I mean this weekend is called the James River Adventure Games which involves thousands of athletes and a couple 10's of thousands of bystanders.

This day was not just about me or any single racer, it was about all racers doing something that most don't and from that we are all winners no matter how we place. By using this way of thinking, it was easy to stay calm, focused, and give each leg my all with the only thought of completing it.

7:45am; We are all asked to line-up at the boat ramp just before the race for last minute instructions and questions answered. I did feel a little pit developing in my stomach as I stood at the rivers edge. Some people from Friday's swim clinic recognized me so we just sat and chatted right up to the moment of the swim. I jumped in about 5 min to race time so acclimated to the water and loosen up.

8am: Herded like cattle, as each whistle blows the next groups edged closer to the water and race time. The first shot rings out at 8am signaling for the green caps to start their race, from there we would be released in a total of 3 waves every 2 minutes based on color of caps. I was a yellow cap and we were wave 3. My idea was to let the siren sound and follow everyone into the water rather that be one of the first only to get stampeded by flailing arms and legs. The beginning of a swim looks no different than a shark attack and probably not much different in terms of injury that you can receive either.

1 minute, 30 sec, 20 sec, 10 sec, 2, 1 bang, GO, GO, GO!! I paused close to 30sec after the whistle waiting for everyone to jump in so that I could find my place in the water, but it quickly appears that despite my lack of swimming, I will be doing much, much better than others already in the water. I jump in and go as far upstream as possible to avoid splashing bodies. Next thin I know I am passing 1, 2, 5, 10 people, more. 1/2 way across I am already passing others that left 2 and 4 minutes prior to me. I keep thinking "stay your course", "Think HR, HR, HR." The swim had so many people and there was so much going on in the water that I was across to the first buoy before I had much chance to get tired. I'm doing it and it was actually fun.

Once out and on the backside of Bird Island, I walked some to keep my cool (I was passing most swimmers too), then I hit the tree with my thigh. A nice charlie-horse was just what the doctor ordered. I was a little worried about a cramp during the swim from it, but that never became an issue.

I rounded buoy 2 & 3 than headed to 4 which had us cross the river back to shore about 100m above the start. I was right along side Heather and Audrey which gave me mixed feelings. I was like YEAH!, but was also thinking you have 1/2 a swim to go and I need to slow down. Buoys 5 & 7 where back on the front side of Bird Island while buoy 6 and finish were on shore. It was a zig-zag for the last 1/2 of the race; having up crossing the river a total of 6 times. At buoy 7, I was feeling beat and I stopped for a good 1-2 minutes before making the cross to swim finish.
Swim time: 28:??, my original thoughts were 35-40 minutes.

Coming out the water I would've been best served to just run back barefoot. It too way long to collect my jersey, shoes, and water and go.

Now I am in transition and I was expecting too much. IE: Dry feet, etc. Putting socks on wet feet is hard, especially in a rush!
This transition had us suit up for the mountain bike part, my decision to wear my cycling shorts for the swim worked great. About 6-7 minutes after coming out of the water, I was now on my bike and heading towards Belle. Find a groove is all I thought and stay in the race to go at my pace, not that of others. It's a little harder to do than say because you see people in front of you and you want to put them behind you, especially if key places (like bottlenecks) are coming up.

I made about 10 passes by the time I was getting on Belle Island, one person didn't like my pass and soon passed me. It was hard not to chase him, but I though keep it for the singletrack where I can perform better attacks and maintain speed. Well as it turned out, he began to blow up before we reached the west tip of Belle and the pass was made again, from that point on I would not be passed by anyone on the mountain bike leg of the race. I was on a high! I've never ridden so well and with so much desire to keep up my pace. Passing became a regular event and I liken it to eating sweets, have one and you want another and each successive piece consumed makes the craving that much greater. I became a passing junkie and that describes my whole mountain biking experience. Sometimes I passed as many as 4, 5, 6, people at once.

I must add that I always did a clean pass, I always asked only after being behind someone for 20-30 secs. Perhaps the most surprising part was that I was only off the bike twice the whole race because of a traffic jam. I really got pumped on 3 parts of the ride. 1) Climbing the B'milk heights switchbacks where I ducted and weaved through 3 people on the lower turn alone, then passed 3 more on the rest of the climb all without stopping. Soon after I came across Heather who had 6-7 minutes on me between doing a 2min better swim and 5 minute better transition. My 2nd fun part was actually passing on Blvd bridge at speed. Normally I would've NEVER passed anyone on that bridge, but I was feeling so good I made 4 clean passes riding around 15-20mph.

I did see some great endo/crash just at the apex of the upper turn to go downhill on the eastern side of Blvd Bridge. A guy got spooked by the trail hit his brakes and the next thing I saw was his rear tire at my head level. I quick "are you alright" followed by a "Yes" had me passing him. We had a ton of people hanging out on the Hodson Bridge/climb which was pretty torturous that far into the race.

I think it was at the top of that climb that I thought for a brief moment, you don't have to do the run part. LOL The North Trail was about 2/3 over by this point and I came across my first cheater. The guy refused to let me pass for about 2-3 minutes, then he crashed giving me the opportunity. About 5 minutes later after Bill's Hill and the berm section, I passed the same guy for a second time. I mumbled something as I passed, but I can't remember what I said. Once past the stumpump it was all about putting on the speed getting back to transition.

My run / walk. OK, walk / run.
Rumors flew about the run being changed from 3.1 to 4 mls and not being a runner, or even one who runs at all; when I do my body revolts via a calf lock-up at about 3mls. It's like swiss clockwork, it's that precise. So to finish this race, my only choice was to walk and run the whole run. This was pretty bad because the more I walked the less I wanted to run, and when I did run my body was like "No MORE". I was back to the mental game again, but I was unable to set any pace for longer that a 100 - 300 yards. I met a guy (Mike from Delaware) that was running and his pace was just faster than my walk, so we ended up chatting most of the whole 5k. My natural pace is faster than his, so we would constantly pass each other during the race.

Homestretch: I get onto the Lee Bridge and the volunteer with his enthusiastic supporting cheer was telling us we are almost done. The girl next to me asks, "how much further?" and the reply was, "cross the bridge and to the finish."
Relief and anger (maybe disappointment) set in. Fully expecting a 4 ml run, I conserved and lost terrible amounts of time on my run so that I could simply finish the race only to find out that the race was really the 5k promised.

I began to run at that point and I set a goal to catch a guy with 35 on his calf about 250m ahead of me. I was able to catch him and not only make the pass, but sustain it. As I came to the finish line I caught up with Mike from Delaware but he was able to hold out and cross the finish 1.2 sec ahead on me. Actually, he deserved it and I cheered him on with a "GO Mike, Go" as I tried to catch him.

The end seems to be just the beginning for me, I finish my first tri and would signed up for another instantly at the moment that I finished. It was a lot of fun, I think I found a comfortable pace and the attitude that I needed to not only complete the race, but to enjoy every moment of it.

So many people that saw me during the race said the same thing, I looked to be having a good time and smiling the whole time. I think that speaks volumes about how important attitude is during anything we set out to accomplish.

Side Notes:
My original time goal: 2- 2:10
After my first swim that was modified to: 2:15-2:30
After learning of the swim increase: 2:30 to 2:45

My real time: 2:09:18
I was able to stay with 10% of my original goal of 2hr w/the increased swim!

Transitions Kills: (all friendly competition, but also the only way for me to gauge any pro/cons of my race)
I was 2 minutes behind my friends out of the water.
I was 6-7 minutes back out of transition.
I was 10 minute to the good after the mountain bike leg on my friends.
At the race end, I was 2 & 5 minutes better loosing a ton of time on the run and transition.

I promised myself that I would not be the that guy, the FAT, hairy Italian without a shirt. I LIED!!! It was getting so hot and more over, my shirt was so wet I almost through it away during the race. So sorry to all those that I offended during my shirtless ventures.

To all those people that cheered for all of us during the race, THANK YOU!
Maybe it was that I felt "connected" to this race more than any race I've ever done, but the cheers feed my desire to try my hardest.

Jared, thanks for getting me involved with such a cool sport. It was a blast.

Lisa, Thanks for being my support and keeping me smiling.

Lastly, I earned my Xterra jersey! I no longer have to say I bought it during my first race, the Urban Assault of 2003.
Photos Page Here.