Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tour de Palm Springs & Beyond

We did the Tour de Palm Springs a few weeks ago. Haven't written about it because there really isn't much to say. We had a great time, we love Palm Springs, and we enjoy this event, but nothing of real interest happened there.

Except that Basta rode his heart out the entire distance, pushing it as hard as he could for the entire 56 miles. He averaged 17.3 mph overall. That's up 2-3 mph from when we starting riding last year. He had many miles of 20+mph, but dropped the average down whenever he hit hills. He hasn't been training on hills other than on the trainer and it really shows.

This is his first year of triathlon, after all. He is nowhere near his potential on the bike. He'll get there if he keeps working at it, and if he wants to. He will become a decent hill-climber one of these days. We're both happy with 17.3 mph over that distance.

His swimmer's shoulder is finally healed and he's easing back into the pool. I walk the deck alongside him whenever I can, working on his form. Body-awareness is so hard in the pool. You can be completely convinced you're doing something one way but the coach above can see and tell you what you're really doing. I'm taking a lot of video to show him what I'm talking about. He fought me on the 'pinky-entry, palm facing inside' concept but finally gets that he will always cross his bodyline if he continues to do a cupped-hand, middle-finger-first entry. He says he likes the palm facing in approach better now, that it feels more efficient and easier. He's still rolling well. His body position is not good. He says he's pressing his chest and head down hard but his legs are still dragging significantly. His bodyfat is so low that he's really going to struggle to get those legs up. A wetsuit will help, of course.

So he's swimming again. Soon we'll get out and do some open water swimming. There are less than 5 weeks until Oceanside. Basta will have been training for 21 weeks when that arrives.

He was sick all last week. He kept it from becoming the major cold that everyone seems to have right now with Zicam, but he was still weak and snuffly. He took a day off. Then another day. Then another. Then we went skiing for four days. He took yesterday off, too. Finally, today, he says he feels fully over the cold, re-energized, and ready to train again. Fortunately, last week was a Rest&Recovery week anyway, so he didn't lose too much.

This week he starts his last Build, then it's time to Peak.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Blood Work

Basta went in for his annual physical last week.

When I met him, 8 years ago, his doctor had just put him on high-blood pressure medication. He was also taking Prevacid almost daily to combat chronic acid reflux (heartburn). He was thin, because he's a hyperactive ectomorph with OCD, but his diet was not great. He didn't eat fast food, which was refreshing, but he ate for taste, not for nutrition. He's a good cook, and he cooked rich, buttery sauces, cheese-based delights, and meats. Not many veggies. He had frequent hemorrhoids. Plus, he drank way too much. He smoked around 7-10 cigarettes a day. He didn't do any intentional exercise. He thought he was healthier than his peers, and he probably was.

Enter me. I've always been fairly fit and I've always been interested in nutrition, thus I eat a pretty healthy diet. I have my fair share of desires for taste sensations and choose flavor over health quite often, but overall I'm pretty healthy. Slowly, gradually, I changed the way Basta lives his life to be one with a focus on health.

First to go were the medications. I convinced him that with a few dietary changes he didn't need modern medicine to suppress his symptoms and give him a host of side effects.

Key to that was quitting smoking. He felt that since he didn't smoke "much" it probably wasn't hurting him. I suggested that since he didn't smoke much, it wouldn't be that dramatic to not smoke at all. It wasn't easy, and it didn't happen quickly, but he did quit smoking.

Next was the diet. The addition of vegetables to his outstanding culinary creations. Fats are not bad for you, in and of themselves, but his percentage of fat intake to everything else was way too high. Changing that, also, was not easy or quick. Thanks in huge part to the publication of the South Beach Diet book, he now understands what is healthy and what is not, and why. He still cooks fantastic meals, but now they are always with fresh ingredients, and always with vegetables.

The results were quick and encouraging. His blood pressure went down below hypertensive level and the brief foray into bp-lowering drugs seemed ridiculous. He also stopped taking the heartburn pills daily and just took them whenever needed, mainly whenever he ate tomatoes.

Over the years we got progressively healthier and healthier. He began happily using quinoa instead of rice most of the time. He grudgingly stopped serving bread with every meal. He came up with other sides besides baked potatoes. He started paying attention to partially hydrogenated oils and refuses to buy anything containing them. We have plenty of setbacks, of course. Forays into chocolate and ice cream weekends. Rich, heavy, calorie-obscene meals consumed just for the sake of decadence. Outstanding wines consumed in abundance. We are far from perfect.

But overall we strive for health. We try to keep a very high ratio of good meals to bad. Basta is the first to say that he feels so much better now than he did a few years ago. He can eat all the tomatoes he wants -- raw, cooked, sauced, juiced, in a bloody mary, whatever -- without a hint of heartburn.

The final step was exercise. I started running about three years ago and decided to run a marathon. He started running with me. He liked it. He ended up running the marathon with me. We both got injured during training and our run/walk time was hardly impressive, but we did it. We both now had the fitness bug.

Last year, after several years of eating a mostly-healthy diet and a few years of random running, Basta's blood work was pretty good. Resting HR 75. BP 115/78. Normal. Close to pre-hypertensive stage, but ok now. Cholesterol 205. Since his father has heart disease and has needed a quintuple bypass, this concerned his doctor. I contended that the ratio was more important than the total number, and his ratio was outstanding. Since we eat so much healthy olive oil, avocadoes, nuts, etc, his good cholesterol was sky-high: 68. His LDL cholesterol was 135. Not high enough to cause real concern. Yet, perhaps in an abundance of caution based on his family history, his doctor recommended a stress test. Basta did it and passed with flying colors. His heart is fine.

Then triathlon entered his life. We went from being runners to being run/bike/swimmers. He decided he wanted to do a Half Ironman. I started this training program (and blog) for him. He went from being an occasional exerciser to a 7-15 hour per week athlete with specific focus on fitness and performance.

His diet changed somewhat, too. He now starts his morning with a whey-protein shake mixed with a banana, psyllium husks, crushed flax seed, and a 1 oz shot of some superfruit juice (blueberry, cranberry, pomegranite, acai, mangosteen, noni -- whatever looks good and maybe is on sale at the health food store). He carries a bag of nuts, a hard-boiled egg, a hamburger (vegetarian-fed beef, of course), some veggies sticks, and water to snack on throughout the day. He still cooks fantastically tasty and healthy dinners.

As a result of the significantly increased exercise these past four months and the addition of the health-packed shake in the morning, Basta has lost 15 pounds. His stomach is perfectly flat. His muscles, all over, are hard and well-defined. His hemorrhoids are gone. He looks at least 10 years younger than he is. He had high hopes for this latest blood work test.

And the results are in:
Resting HR: 64. Down from 75 last year.
BP: 94/63. Down from 115/78. Outstanding.
Cholesterol: 174. Down from 205. Huge change!
HDL: 68. 65 last year. Essentially the same. This is high, and this is good.
LDL: 101. Down from 135 last year. This is huge. Remember, he takes no drugs (other than a multi-vitamin and glucosamine). This is all diet and exercise, baby.

All other tests were normal.

So, my 53-year-old husband has the blood and cardiovascular system of a very healthy and much younger man. If he can do it, anyone can.

Like me. I eat pretty much what he eats, but I don't work out as much. If I up my exercise to 6-7 hours per week, and up the intensity rather dramatically, I can see these outstanding results, too. My blood work is like his was last year: Good, healthy, fine, but not outstanding. I want outstanding.

He says that he feels like he'll live to 100 now. I point out that no matter what age he lives to, he feels great now. Every day he reaps the benefits of this abundant health.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Surf City (Half) Marathon

It rained. Buckets. Cold buckets. Cold, wind-blown buckets. What a cold, miserable, nasty day it was.

The fun thing about the Surf City Marathon is that the starting line is 7 miles from our home. Yet they close the roads for the event so we can't actually get there from here, by car. We can, I suppose, but we'd have to drive all the way outside of the route zone and then come back in on the other side of the course, ending up in a big line of traffic waiting to get into the beach parking lot. We'd have to leave home hours before the start. With the bikes, we can do it in about a half hour. It's a good warmup, after all.

So off we went at 6:30 am, into the darkness, howling wind, and pouring rain. I wore my supposedly-waterproof sailing jacket and running tights. I put Basta in a poncho. He wore his biking leg warmers and a sweatshirt over his running attire. But it was all for naught. We were soaked through and chilled within minutes. By halfway there, I could feel a pool of water surrounding my toes inside my shoes. We just hunkered down and kept pedaling into the wind-driven rain, hoping to get there soon.

The marathoners came running by on the other side of the road, headed the opposite direction. They were a couple of miles from the start. Their start was at 7, ours at 7:30, so we would probably get there in time despite the hard wind trying to keep us away.

Most of the marathoners were running in ponchos or trash bags, and there were a lot of them. I had wondered if anyone would bail on the race, us being wimpy Southern Californians after all, but it didn't look like many did.

We made it to the start, locked up the bikes on a handy rail, and went to find our Tri Club tent. This tent is actually more of an awning, and it was struggling to stay upright. Cold, wet, miserable triathletes were huddled underneath, hoping to collect some last-minute warmth before the start of the half. We joined them, saw a few people that we know, and did our best to find some warmth, too. We pretty much failed.

The ride down was enough of a warmup for the legs, so Basta didn't do a jog prior to the start. I did spray some Kool&Fit on his legs in hopes of warming them up a bit and keeping them from cramping. It probably just washed off right away.

The corral was segregated into waves by time, and Basta's planned time of sub-1:50 was the second wave, right after the elites. I had thought he'd be a bit farther back. 8 min miles is really not super-fast in the grand scheme of things. A lot faster than me, yes, but plenty of people can do sub-7 Halfs.

I took his wet legwarmers and sweatshirt, kissed him good luck, and off he went to stand in his crowd. The gun went off, they sprinted away, and I was left cold, wet, shivering, hunkered down with my back to the wind, and with some time on my hands.

I wandered up the course, on the sidelines with the other cold and soggy spectators, watching the remaining waves start. Lots and lots of runners went by. Around 13,000 in all. Some all togged up in ponchos, trash-bags, or high-tech waterproof jackets, some in just shorts and a skimpy top as if it were a typical beach day.

I was getting very cold very quickly. I did not wear enough layers for this day, and the layers I did have were almost completely soaked through. I was starting to shiver uncontrollably. This wasn't good. Perhaps Starbucks could help.

I walked up Main Street several blocks to the local Starbucks. It was packed with fellow spectators who'd had the same idea. I stood in line for a bit, warming up, but it was crowded i n there and I decided it wasn't worth staying if I wasn't going to be able to sit somewhere inside after I'd gotten my coffee. So I went to plan B -- a restaurant.

A nearby restaurant was open for breakfast and had plenty of room at the bar. They didn't seem to mind that I was soaking wet. I had some Huevos Rancheros and plenty of nice warm coffee. This was a much better way to spend my time while Basta was out there running his heart out. No one could hear me shake my cowbell out there in the wind, anyway.

After an hour or so it was time to wander back down to the start/finish. I wasn't much drier, but I was warmer and well fed. I'd survive.

The really speedy runners were finishing when I reached the line at about 1:30 into the race. I saw several men with two blood-soaked stains on their chests. It appears that running in the wet & cold makes the nipples stand up hard, thus making them more prone to such chafe. I saw some smarter men who'd put bandaids over thars. Basta has never had a problem with this before and I hoped that conditions today didn't cause him a problem.

I expected a 1:50ish finish for Basta, but with this weather it could be anything. The rain had abated somewhat but it was still windy. I saw a couple of really-fast people from the tri club finish. Normally, spectators cheer finishers, but today the best we could manage was to be out there; cold, miserable, and glaring silently at these loved-ones who had made us come out this day.

Sooner than I expected, there he came. Looking much like a drowned rat, his curly hair matted to his skull, he came flying through the finish. 1:41:17 was his chip time. 7:44 pace. That's 11 minutes faster than Long Beach just four months ago. That's almost a full minute per mile faster pace. That's amazing. That's impressive. That's encouraging.

I yelled at him through the fence to take one of those silver blankets that they hand out at the end and wrap up in it. Then I told him to get one for me, too. He tossed my space-blanket over the fence to me. Aahhh, a bit more warmth. By the time I found him again outside the finisher's area he was shivering hard. I gave him his cold, wet leg-warmers and sweatshirt. Wet though they were, the extra clothing helped.

He was very excited about his finish. He said he felt great the whole time. No blisters from the wet feet. No bloody nips. No aches, pains, or problems. He just ran fast throughout and sprinted hard the last two miles. He is fit. He is ready. Coach is proud.

Yet he told me that he walked through a couple of water stops and took one porta-potty break en-route. He figures he will do that at Oceanside, he might as well do it during training runs, too. So if it had been a perfect day for running and he hadn't needed the potty break, he might have done this sub-7:40. Even more amazing.

The ride home sucked, as you can imagine. The rain had finally stopped but it was still windy. Most delightfully, the wind had shifted so that it was nearly a headwind on the way home, too. Plus, we were cold and tired. But we made it. A nice hot shower, some dry clothes, and all was well.

Then it was off to the Superbowl party.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Half Marathon on the Horizon

The Surf City USA Half Marathon is on Sunday. We go to do packet pickup in a couple of hours.

Basta is really ready for this. He can run 13 miles easily. He can push this and run 13 miles faster than he's ever done before. He's healthy. His swimmer's shoulder still lingers but his legs are fine. His nutrition is good. He went into pre-race nutrition mode yesterday, which means more complex carbs, less saturated fats, and nothing to drink but water and coffee.

He knows what he wants to wear and is unconcerned about the forecasted rain. This run is going to be cold (for us. 45⁰ at the start. I guess that's more like chilly), but he's been running in the wind and chilliness for a few weeks now. He doesn't like it -- no one does -- but he does it.

He has his pre-race nutrition lined up: The same protein shake that he has every morning. No solid foods. A Clif Shot pocketed for before the start and another one for halfway through. The course is supposed to have Clif Blocks at various aid stations, and hooray for them for choosing Clif, but it's better if you have them on your person, available exactly when you want them.

Today he's going for a short 30 minute run and an easy "Seniors Spin" class at the gym. Tomorrow he'll ride the bike for a quick 30 minutes to keep his leg muscles fired up.

Then it's Showtime. B-race Showtime, anyway. It would be nice if it doesn't rain.

He really likes the new training program. He also seems to be just plugging away at the training, too. It's not the sole focus of his life any more. Far from it. Yet he's working on doing each training day as prescribed, and he's doing pretty well at that. On hills days he rides hills, even if they are on the Computrainer. He runs intervals, tempo runs, and sprints. So far he refuses to do another run test (blame the rain and wind) and long slow distance, but we can do fine without those. This is where I wanted him to be, and where he wanted to be, too.

Now if I could just get myself there. I may have to start another blog on that little topic.