Friday, March 17, 2017

14 day of Mud Madness complete, only 11 to go

My body has adjusted to the extra activity of the rowing challenge. I definitely felt drained after the first 6 days, but I haven't felt particularly fatigued since that first week. I even managed to break 19 minutes in a 5000 m rowing session on Wednesday. That's the first time that I've managed that in years. I'm particularly pleased that I've managed to work these rowing sessions into my established routine rather than replacing running or lifting with rowing. It makes for some active days, but I've been trying to keep the pace easy on days that I'm just not feeling all that primed to push. In previous attempts at this challenge I always felt obligated to keep my pace below 2 minutes/500 meters. I've abandoned that arbitrary pace this time around. I did 5000 m last night while watching basketball. It took me 22 minutes. I took a couple of very quick breaks to mess with my music, but those breaks weren't long enough to have a big impact on my time. I did do a crazy 500 m sprint at the end, but that was just for fun. Consistently getting on the rowing machine makes the difference. The pace of those meters is secondary to getting them done. 

It will be no problem getting in my meters today. This is the first half day Friday of 2017. I'm taking my car to get the oil changed, but I should have a solid hour or two after my car is done to lift and row today's 5000 m. I was in Chicago for some worthless training this time last year. Two years ago was the first time I lifted at Crunch. I spent the rest of that day getting groceries and taking my daughter to Girl Scouts. I'm getting lunch some place with TVs while my car is in the garage. I may even break my beer only on Saturdays rule. Or I may just get iced tea. I'll see how I'm feeling in that moment. I'm giving myself a chance to actually enjoy today. It really sucked to be away from my family last year. The flight back was delayed so I didn't get home until early Saturday morning. Today is a day to celebrate all that is good in my life.

I've been consistent with eating more carefully. I have probably given myself more passes recently than I should, but I've lost almost all of the weight I gained post-August keen injury. I was 218 Tuesday morning. I floated right around 217 before I got hurt. It's nice to see the numbers go down, but I'm more focused on sticking to the process of eating healthy and working out regularly.

Yesterday was not the best day for my eating. I planned on going to Subway for lunch, but there was no place to park (the Subway is in the same shopping center as a Buffalo Wild Wings and a local university was playing in the tournament at that time). I went to Taco Bell instead. I didn't go overboard at Taco Bell, but it was definitely more than a veggie sub and some Doritos. I wasn't sure when I was going to have dinner so I picked up a bag of Doritos and a Kind bar. I ate a few Doritos in the car as I drove back to work. I finished the bag and had my Kind bar as I was driving home. It turns out I left early enough that my wife was able to cook me dinner. So I went home and ate that. I didn't have anything else that night, but it was still more food than I normally eat in a day. This is after having a piece of pizza and some cake after a very filling dinner on Thursday. Today is not going all that well either. I grabbed an egg mcmuffin on my way in, had a donut in a meeting, and then had a cookie and some cake at another meeting. I should seriously consider getting a salad for lunch and skipping the beer. Sure, I was on the treadmill for almost a half hour this morning and I will row later, but that activity is not enough to cancel out all those calories!

After finishing A Time of Gifts, I moved on to Sapiens. It's a very interesting book that reads fast. It's nice to be reading a book that I actually look forward to opening and have a hard time putting down. I've struggled with enough books this year. I'm ready to just read fun stuff for the rest of the year. I won't, Book Shelf Zero doesn't have room for that, but I will be sure to work in some less onerous books between the real drags. To the Lighthouse drags on. I get through a few pages when I can. The mornings have become a less than ideal time to read. These half day Fridays only make it more challenging. I would rather get in to work so I can leave earlier rather than sit around at home and extending the time I have to spend at work. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Time of Gifts - 5 down, 175 to go

There will be plenty of periods like this as I slowly work toward Book Shelf Zero. I've stuck myself with some less than thrilling reads that take a little while to get through. I'm going to go through long periods where nothing gets finished while I slowly chip away at some decent but very slow going book. That is the case for A Time for Gifts. It's not bad. It just gets a little redundant and repetitive about half way through the book. Long descriptions of churches and other buildings are extremely dull. The language is different and interesting, but there is just nothing much to keep me engaged with Fermor's long walk other than a desire to finish the book. He's happy to dawdle. I just wanted to get to the end. I'm happy to have this one behind me. Five down. 175 to go.

The most interesting thing about A Time of Gifts is the way it captures what life was like for an ordinary person in late 1930's Europe. Thinking about what somebody following in Fermor's steps walking from Holland to Constantinople (or Budapest, which is where this book ends, the rest of his journey is in a second book, which I don't own) would experience in 2017 is an interesting exercise. I don't think a dirty 19 your old would be received quite so readily these days (assuming that the memories and stories in the book are accurate). He wouldn't have to worry about losing his diary because each stage of the walk would be captured on social media and I wouldn't have to worry about reading long descriptions of buildings because there would be numerous pictures for every site he visits. There may still be some mountain trails that a person could walk on between villages in the Austria or Germany, but roads and railroads have likely taken much of that ground. The world is very different. Of course, Fermor spends plenty of time thinking about the great historical moments (mostly the ancient Roman historical events) that happened in the different places he passes through. He notes the way cultures and people migrate and move over time. He sees echoes of that ancient time. His book grabs the moment he experienced and holds it for the future.

March 6, 2017

(Only getting around to posting this on March 11. Just wanted to capture these thoughts and put them in their proper place)

This Mud Madness thing is wiping me out. My body just feels worn out and tired. Eating less while doing all this additional exercise probably isn't the best idea. I felt pretty weak lifting weights today. I interpret that as my body just not having all that it needs to keep up with the demands I'm putting on it. I have never had sustained activity like this over an extended period of time. I'm in new territory and need to keep that in mind as I proceed over the next couple of weeks.

Tomorrow is a total rest day. I was already using Tuesday as a rest day before I added in in the extra rowing so it was an easy call to use that as one of my 6 March non-rowing days. I will also be weighing myself tomorrow. That will give me an idea of what's going on weight wise. The scale has been telling me I'm losing weight for the last couple of weeks. I'm right at this moment wearing pants that were too tight when we went on our Disney trip in January. I want that lost weight to be fat and not muscle. Too much weight too fast is not the idea. 

For the record, this is what I've done since the Mud Madness thing started last Wednesday:

Wednesday: Rowed 5000 m; 20 minutes or so of weight lifting; 11,938 steps
Thursday: Ran 4.81 miles, rowed 2600 m in the morning, 2400 m in the evening, 15,993 steps
Friday: Ran 2 treadmill miles, 15 minutes or so of weight lifting, rowed 2500 m at the gym and 2500 m at home in the evening, 15.101 steps
Saturday: Ran 6 miles in the morning, rowed 5000 m in the evening, 16,387 steps
Sunday: Rowed 5000 m, 7522 steps
Monday: Ran 3.5 miles at 8:03 pace, rowed 2500 m before lifting, rowed another 2500 m after dinner, 15,025 steps

The running and rowing days are tough. I felt alright on the rowing machine earlier this afternoon. I'm not looking forward to the second 2500 m segment tonight. I missed my step target yesterday because I was just dragging after dinner. I thought it was better to go to bed and get the rest rather than staying up an extra half hour to hit 10,000 steps. The early bed time was especially important given that my alarm goes off at 5 on Monday morning.

I added a small snack to my lunch this afternoon after feeling so low energy. I had some flavored pecans. They were very tasty. The probably weren't the best choice, but any kind of pecan beats a Taco Bell bean burrito or a bag of Doritos. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Plenty of rowing and running, but not much reading

I'm 4 for 4 on the Mud Madness Challenge. I've also maintained my running workouts. A 6 mile run and 5000 m of rowing is a pretty significant amount of exercise in one day. I'm getting in the workouts, but the quality of those workouts may be suffering a bit. I'm taking it easy when I'm rowing, but all that exertion still builds up. My run today was at my intended pace, I did 6 miles at just under 9 minutes a mile, but meeting my target pace may be  more difficult as I get deeper into the month. I remember struggling to get in the 5000 m one night and easily doing 5000 m in a close to PR time the next night the last time I tried to do this Mud Madness thing. (The last time I tried was in 2013.  I rowed my best 5000 m ever in early April. There is no doubt that all the rowing in March built up my fitness to the point where I could do 5000 m in 18:29.6. I'm still looking to break 19 minutes this year.) It may be more beneficial to do fewer workouts with higher intensity, but that's not the challenge. The Mud Madness Challenge is all about volume. I'm going to keep pouring it on.

I will not be finishing another book anytime soon. I'm halfway through A Time of Gifts. With a concentrated effort, I can make it through 10% of that book a day. At that pace, I could it finished before next weekend. I may take that shot. It's just dragging so much. I have no time to read To the Lighthouse. I read in the morning twice this week. I had a doctor's appointment on Monday, I used my Tuesday reading time on a different project, I rowed Wednesday, I managed to read a few page son Thursday, and I had to hustle in to work after running Friday morning. I'm shooting for 3 solid morning reading sessions next week. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Getting to the halfway point of that book would be good progress.

I'm surprised that I've stuck with my beer on Saturday only rule. I was tempted to have one last night, but I was pretty tired and went to bed kind of early for a Friday. I'm working on my second beer of the day right now. That will be it for the day. I keep wanting to have a four or five beer Saturday, but it just doesn't seem to work out that way. Oh well, fewer beers means fewer calories.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Concept2 Mud Madness Day 1

The company that makes my rowing machine has a challenge every March. Row at least 5000 m for 25 days of the month. I have attempted this challenge many times and have achieved it exactly zero times. I'm going for it again this year. I did my normal 5000 m of rowing this morning. So far so good.

I also went to the gym to lift at lunch. My gym has a couple of Concept2 machines. This could be critical to finally beating this challenge. We'll see...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Obsession shift in progress...

I have discovered the vast amount of Walt Disney World related content on the internet. I knew of a few planning sites from my last couple of trips, but there is oh so much more out there. Multiple blogs are dedicated to planning the trip (just planning, not actually saying anything about the parks or resorts, that's a whole other subset of blogs), and there are several podcasts as well. I'm sure there are numerous YouTube channels. I have discovered these rich veins of WDW topics and nuance in my effort to prepare myself for next year's half marathon. You could really feed an obsession with this kind of material. It's so plentiful that it can never be completely depleted. Just the runDisney tag on Instagram alone gets dozens of posts a day. That traffic will spike with this weekend's Princess Half Marathon weekend.

I'll be watching all of these posts unfold. My someday I'll do a runDisney race becoming I'm doing that in less than a year has become this year's obsession du jour. Last year I was all about my reading. It was about this time last year that I upped my reading goal to 52 books and decided to pursue Book Shelf Zero (I'm down to 176 after finishing Boy's Life Friday night). My runDisney experience is building to that same level of preoccupation. Our trip to WDW in January went about as ideally as possible. The positive vibes of that trip continue to persist a month after we got home. We did so much, but there were still things we weren't able to experience. And that's how they suck you in. You go down there once without any idea what you're doing. It's fun, but you're really only experiencing the parks and resorts at about 60% of maximum fun. So you go back and delve a little deeper into the nuances of everything. You find a great resort that allows you to walk to two parks with easy access to two other resorts. Options for what to do and where to eat abound. You try this and that, luck into a great evening after coming outside to eat, and see other places you want to visit and things you want to try. (And discover that some things people get all geeked about, like Dole Whips, really don't live up to the hype. I would take one of those Mickey ice cream bars over the Dole Whip every time.)

So you decide that you'll go back. You didn't get to eat in Mexico (the circumstances surrounding that failure stands out as the only really dark spot in our entire trip) so you want to check that off the next time you're down there. There are more rides to be experienced, more restaurants to check out, and more places to visit. Then you start reading these blogs and listening to these podcasts and discover a whole new level of park experience. The runDisney thing is just that kind of experience. The races are a different way to experience Disney magic while finding a whole new genre of merchandise to spend money on. This could be my only runDisney race, I have to get a jacket! Then they change the park, adding more attractions and tweaking what is already there. It's an endless cycle that draws you in deeper and deeper with every new post and update.(The Disney Parks Blog is particularly prodigious. There are several posts a day. And I suspect this is the slow season.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Small victories

Things are really starting to move. 

I finished The Handmaid's Tale. Fantastic book. That gets me down to 177 books to be read. I'm rapidly approaching the end of Boy's Life. There is too much going on in that book, but I've gotten to a point where the story is finally starting to move a bit. The lack of competing reading demands has also made it easy to commit to that book rather than jumping back to Jonathan Strange. Now that I think about it, the massive gravity of Jonathan Strange was probably my biggest challenge with Boy's Life.

I read a few pages of To the Lighthouse on Monday. I read a column on Medium about a DIY MFA and To the Lighthouse was mentioned in the context of reading hard books. I wanted to gauge that difficulty for myself. I actually like the writing style and didn't find the first 10 pages overly ponderous. The perspective shifts from one character to the next with no warning, but I'm kind of nonlinear in my thinking style so that discontinuity makes sense to me. I'm due to read another Modern Library 100 book so that might be the next book that I focus on after I finish Boy's Life later this week.

My weight is finally going down. I spent a bunch of time at work last week reading a short stack of papers about energy expenditure. Those papers suggested that diet was much more critical to weight control than exercise. My discovery of these papers neatly coincided with the release of a book about the role of the brain in eating and obesity. I used an Audible credit to get it the day it came out (Hamilton can wait until next month). The book, it's called The Hungry Brain, is engrossing, informative, and simply astounding. It's gets pretty technical in places concerning neuroanatomy and chemical pathways, but as a scientist I very much appreciate this aspect of the book. 

The Hungry Brain just reinforced everything I learned from reading the energy expenditure papers. I will never lose weight until I eat right. My workouts burn calories, but any deficit those workouts create is usually nullified by excessive eating. A few snacks here, a couple of treats there, throw in a few beers, and I've basically given back all the calories I burned working out. I avoided those behaviors last week and dropped a couple of pounds. We'll see if this trend continues. Sticking to my workout routine is hopefully contributing as well. I've managed to maintain the Wednesday rowing session and Friday morning short run. My body felt pretty tired while I was rowing this morning and during my lifting workout over lunch, but I can't tell if that's workout fatigue of lack of sleep. Getting more sleep is another piece of this weight control puzzle. That's definitely the hardest behavior for me to modify.

I successfully registered my wife and I for the Disney World Half Marathon yesterday. I jumped on the site minutes after registration opened to ensure that we could do the race. This is my best chance to do one of these races for the next couple of years. I don't want to miss it. I am more excited for this race than any race that I've run since I started running races consistently. I don't have to worry about training for this as I will be a couple of months past my full marathon and we're not running it for time. This is about the experience. I can't wait. Only 321 days to go!