Saturday, April 7, 2012

Weekly Exercise Report

Distance (mi)
Charlottesville Half Marathon
Bedford Run

Charlottesville Half Marathon

After a lot of training and planning, I finally took part in my first half marathon in Charlottesville today. It went as expected for the most part. The one thing that I was not ready for was the hills. I wasn't expecting the course to be as "rolling" as it was. There were a lot more hills than I had thought there would have been. I even checked out the elevation profile of the course before hand. Here is a quick description of my race.

Getting to the Start line: Since the race started at 6:30 am, I had planned to walk from the hotel to the starting line. It was going to be just over 1.5 miles. I figured it would be a nice warm up and it would be good to get my legs loose. So, I got up at 5:00 am and quietly got dressed without waking the boys. I used some hot water from the hotel's breakfast area to make some oatmeal that I brought from home. I knew the hotel would not be serving breakfast that early, so I planned ahead. With my oatmeal in hand I set out to start my walk. After only a quarter mile, a fellow pulled over and asked if I wanted to ride to the race. I usually don't like riding with strangers, but the temperature was in the 30's and I had shorts on. So, I climbed in. He was a very nice gentleman with an eastern European accent. He was the first one to warn me of the hills on the course. He told me that he had tracked the route the day before and said that there were lots of hills. After getting to the race an hour earlier than expected, I found a seat at the bar at the Main Street Arena and watched some Sportcenter. I checked my bag at 6:00 am and started to warm up.

Mile one: The start was very crowded and everyone had to funnel through a small starting gate. I didn't try to push my way to the front of the starting group, so it took me about 4 minutes to get to the gate once the starting gun sounded. Then the runner dodging began. I zig zagged my way through slower traffic, trying not to clip anyone's feet along the way. My plan of keeping my splits in the multiple of 9 range failed at mile one. I started my iPod with the starting gun, so my first mile was clocked at over 11 minutes. So much for that plan.

Miles two and three: We passed through part of the UVA campus during these miles. It was early enough in the race that I actually just cruised and took in the sights. We passed by The Rotunda during this section of the race.

Miles three and four: I got my first water stop during these miles and almost choked myself to death. I tried to drink a cup of water without slowing down and it definitely didn't go down too good. I think some came through my nose at some point. This section of the race took us across Rt. 29 and into the horse country of Albemarle County. The course turned into a winding two lane country road. Even though the scenery was beautiful, this was the section of "rolling" hills that I was not expecting.

Miles six and seven: During the second water stop, I decided to actually walk and drink my water! Then it was off to tackle some more hills. The hardest hill came during this section of the race. Just past the top of that hill was the course turnaround. Then we got to back track the same road back into town. It was somewhat reassuring to know that no big course surprises were left. I would know all the roads that were left because we were just returning the same road for most of the remaining miles. I decided it was a good time to take a GU gel, so I started to slowly eat a packet. Even though I charged my iPod the entire night before the race, it decided to die on me. So I no longer had any way of getting split times and I didn't have a watch either.

Miles eight, nine, and ten: It was during these miles that my legs really started to tighten up on me. I felt like I was really struggling to keep the same pace I had been running for the first half of the race. Coming into the race, I told myself that I was going to keep a consistent pace through 10 miles and then kick it up a notch for the final three. I was really starting to question whether or not I was going to be able to do that now.

Miles eleven, twelve, and thirteen: These were the miles that I had planned to really push my pace. But when I finally got to this section of the race, I had hardly anything left in my tank. I tried to pick up my pace, but my legs would just not move any faster. Coming into the race I had a primary goal of just finishing the race. My secondary goal was to run a sub two hour race. It was at this point in the race I really started to doubt that I would accomplish my secondary goal. I felt like my pace was already falling off and according to my iPod during the first few miles, my pace wasn't too good to start with. So, I concentrated on just finishing the race as well as I could.

The Finish: The finish line really snuck up on me. I didn't see the 13th mile marker and I thought we had a few more hills to run. But as I turned a corner, the finish line was in site and to my surprise, the clock read 1:51. I was going to make my sub 2 hour race after all. So, I pushed myself through the finish line. My gun time was 1:54:07 (8:43 pace) and my chip time was 1:50:55. I was so happy that I accomplished both of my prerace goals. Then I heard Eli shouting "Daddy". I turned around and saw Anna and the boys coming down the sidewalk. They had made from the hotel the finish line in time to see me cross. Eli snapped the picture below and then drank my free chocolate milk. Coy enjoyed my post race banana. It was great to be able to do my cool down walk with Anna and the boys.

I consider the entire race weekend a success. I met both of my personal goals while completing my first half marathon on a very challenging course. Plus I got to hang out with Anna and the boys.

Eli took this picture with his camera!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tasty Thursday

Chicken Tortilla Soup:

This is a recipe that Anna borrowed from our wonderful sister-in-law Emily. Anna makes it pretty regularly and it is one of my favorite soups. If you go light on the tortilla strips and cheese, it is not too bad for you either. Here is the recipe:

  1. one whole rotisserie chicken or 4 to 5 chicken breasts
  2. Ground Cumin
  3. 1 medium onion
  4. 1 box of chicken broth (for additional soup)
  5. 1 can of corn
  6. 1 can of black beans
  7. 1 can of diced tomatoes
  8. 1 can of green chilies (found in the aisle with the Mexican food, usually on the top shelf)\
  9. Optional: cilantro, jalapenos, shredded cheese, tortilla strips (usually found in the salad dressing aisle)
  1. Boil the rotisserie chicken until the chicken starts to come off of the bone (usually about 1 1/2 hours). Drain the chicken with a strainer and save the broth. This makes the largest portion of your soup.
  2. If you are adding additional broth go ahead and add it.
  3. Add about 3 to 4 palm fulls of cumin. Just taste as you go and see how you like it.
  4. Pick the chicken off of the bone and place it back in the broth.
  5. Chop the onion and add it to the broth.
  6. Add the remaining canned ingredients, but rinse the corn and black beans before adding.
  7. Return to a boil and then let simmer for about 25 minutes. This give the onion time to get tender.
  8. Add any additional toppings.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Random Thoughts

Thoughts before my first half marathon:
While thinking of a topic to use for my inaugural “Random Thought Thursday” post, the first thing to come to mind was my first half marathon this weekend. Thoughts on this topic have been dominating my mind all week anyway. Why not write about a few of these emotions? As I wrote in my latest post, this half marathon has been a goal of mine since last year. I have been anxiously waiting for this weekend to get here for some time. But now that it is so close, three distinct questions have been on my mind. What do I need to do this week to get ready for Saturday? What is my plan for the actual race? What do I do once this much anticipated goal has been met, or not met?
I have raced in three different races since last November, but they all had something in common. They were all local races, which allowed me to sleep in my own bed the night before. This weekend is going to be different. Since the race is in Charlottesville and since the start time is 6:30 am, there is no way I can stay at home the night before. In preparation, I reserved a hotel room in Charlottesville weeks ago. So this race is technically a destination race, even though it is only about a couple hours from my house. This requires additional planning and packing. Back when I use to play football, I was that guy that would check his travel bag 100 times to make sure all the important stuff was there. My biggest fear was that I would get to the away game, only to realize that my helmet as back in our locker-room.  I have already made a list of gear and clothing I need to pack, which items I need to take with me to the starting line, and which items I can leave in the car. I am very happy that Anna and boys are going to be able to come too. But as any parent would know, taking a trip with kids brings stress too. Plus, Anna and the boys will be leaving the hotel after me and will probably need to checkout too. I am trying not to get too worried about the logistical details of our trip, but it is almost impossible not get a little stressed.
So that leaves me to start thinking about the actual race itself. Once all the planning and packing are finished and I actually have to run the longest race I have ever run. Since I am new to the running world, I do not know enough about planning a race to be too worried. I have told myself that I was going to just run at a comfortable pace with my only goal of actually finishing the race. But the competitive person I am, I can’t help but shoot for a specific time in my head. Since any time would be a personal record for me in the half marathon, I shouldn’t be too concerned with meeting any set time goal for myself. I use my iPod as my watch when I run. It works pretty well for me because I can hit a single button and the nice computer voice tells me my time. So, I am going to use my rule of 9’s when keeping up with my pace. I am sure someone probably already coined this term, but I like the way it sounded. So, I am going to try to set my pace so that every mile split is a multiple of 9, or less. So after mile 1, my split should be 9:XX, followed by mile splits of 18, 27, 36, etc. Hopefully that will get me to over 10 miles with enough energy to push myself a little bit more in the last few miles. Plus, it is easy enough to keep track of while huffing and puffing down the road.
So hopefully all my logistical and race planning will lead me to accomplish my ultimate goal of completing a half marathon. Which leads me to my last question, what next? This is the one question I am not going to stress out about too much. I have actually already signed up for a 5k trail race next Saturday, but I did it more for experience of running through an apple orchard (more on that race to come in later posts). I just plan to take a couple easy runs next week to try and help my legs get over any soreness. Other than this race, I have signed up for one more trail race (10k) in May. So after those two races, I am going to continue to get my weekly runs. But more importantly, I am going to enjoy my summer with Anna and the boys. If I miss a run, I miss a run. I will not get overly concerned as long as I missed the run due to a family function and not due to laziness.  I do want to try and ride my bike more this summer and also start a little weight training. Once the end of summer comes around, I will concentrate on getting ready for the Virginia 10 Miler in September.
So, as long as I can get to the starting line at 6:30 am on Saturday, everything should work out. I will continue to try to not sweat the small stuff and try to enjoy the experience. Hopefully I will have great stuff to write about when we return home.

Weekly Blog Schedule

I will create new posts when needed, but I will attempt to keep a weekly schedule of posts also. These posts will have set themes but varying topics. Hopefully they will be entertaining and informative. Feel free to leave comments or suggestions when desired. Here is the schedule I will use for the near future and it could change without warning.

Sunday: “Snapshot Sunday” – Anybody that knows us, knows we take a lot of pictures. So my Sunday posts will be my three favorite pictures from the past 7 days.
Monday: “Stuff the Boys Say” – I will try to write down funny stuff that Eli and Coy say during the week and report on these sayings on Mondays.
Tuesday: “Top Ten Tuesday” – Random top ten rankings.
Wednesday: “Product Reviews” – Short review of products used by our family. These products may be household goods, children products, or athletic gear.
Thursday: “Random Thought Thursday” – A place and time for me to ramble on about something I find interesting or concerning.
Friday: “Good Food Friday” – This will be a general “food” inspired post. It could be a delicious recipe we used at the house, or a nice dinning out experience.
Saturday: “Weekly Exercise Report” – I will use my Saturday post to wrap up my exercise for the week. I will include walking, running, biking, or weight training completed in the past week.

So, please check back with my blog on a regular basis and give me any feedback you feel necessary. Thanks for taking time to take part in my newest project.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lifestyle Change

365 days ago, I made the decision to make a lifestyle change. I was not living a terrible life, but I was definitely not taking care of myself like I should have been. The main reason I wanted to live healthier was my new family. Becoming a father has changed me in many ways, but I think biggest change was to my general outlook at life. I have always been the type of person that lived for today. We can deal with tomorrow when it gets here, right? Well, when you become responsible for the health and well-being of your children, things change. I stress out about things that never would have even crossed my mind 3 1/2 years ago. One of my greatest fears is not being there for Anna and the boys, so I made the decision to lose some weight and live healthier.

I took the simplest approach I could to losing weight. I needed to burn more calories than I ate every day. I could eat a lot less, or I could eat a little less and add some exercise to my daily routine. The second options sounded a lot better to me, considering how much I enjoy food. I made myself an account on This website makes it easy to keep track of the calories you eat and the calories you burn. This made me be accountable for everything I put in my body. I think I drove Anna crazy by telling her how many calories everything had. This website also allows you to put a target weight on a specific date and adjusts your calorie intake in order to get to that weight. I urge anyone trying to lose weight to use some sort of tool to help them track their food and exercise.

As far as nutrition, we already ate pretty healthy around our house. We eat lots of grilled/baked chicken and fresh vegetables. My main area of concern was my portions at lunch and dinner time. Anyone who knows me knows I like to eat a lot. One word can sum up my approach to changing how I eat. That word is moderation. I needed to eat more frequently but in less quantity. I needed smaller breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Also, I needed to add a few healthy snacks in between meals. These snacks help to do two things. First they help my metabolism to stay high by making my body process food more often. Secondly, the snacks help me not to be too hungry and lunch and dinner. I found that when I am extremely hungry, I eat a lot!

In order to not starve myself, I needed to add some exercise to my life in order increase my daily calorie burn. I decided to start getting on that dusty treadmill in my basement. I started very slowly. I would run just a few minutes and then walk a few minutes. I would repeat the run/walk combination for around 15-20 minutes. After a few weeks, I would change my routine and add a minute to my run times and subtract a minute from my walk times. I gradually built myself up to running for ten minutes at a time. After a few months of slowing increasing my running time, I found myself running for 30 minutes straight. Once the running started to get a little easier, I found myself actually enjoying the activity.

I decided to get out of the dark basement and run the Bedford "loop". Having grown up near the loop, I have walked and run it many times through the years. The first few times I ran the loop, I had to walk sections. Gradually I belt up the endurance to finish the entire 3 mile loop without walking any parts. It was still a lot easier just running in the basement during the week before work. I started to make myself run outside once a week.

After running 3 to 4 miles outside on a regular basis, I thought I would take part in a 5k (3.1 mile) race. I registered for the Drumstick Dash on Thanksgiving morning in downtown Roanoke. I found that running next to other people really brought out my competitiveness. This was a side of me that I have not felt since I stopped playing competitive sports years ago. It was not so much competing against the other people either. I enjoyed competing against myself to register the best possible time. I enjoyed the race so much that I registered for the Christmas classic 5k in Bedford a few weeks later.

It was after these two races that I decided on my next goal. I wanted to run a half marathon (13.1 miles). I planned out the next 3 months of runs. I would have 3 treadmill runs of 4 miles each per week. I would run a shorter faster run once a week in Bedford one weekday and I would spend the early morning hours of every Saturday working up long distance runs. First I started with 5 miles. Next were runs of varying distances from 6 to 12 miles. I got sick a couple of times though these winter months, which caused my weekly miles to drop a couple times. But for the most part, I averaged 20-26 miles per week. I will be running in the Charlottesville Half Marathon on Saturday. I very much looking forward to making it to the finish line and reaching the goal I set for myself months ago.

Even though I will hopefully be reaching my goal of finishing a half marathon, I have plenty other goals set for 2012. I have already run in my first trail race, the Montvale 5 miler trail race a few weeks ago.  I also have three 5k races, one 10k trail race, one 10 mile race, and one more half marathon planned this year. I am a big believer in setting goals for you to work towards. It is very easy to miss training sessions if you do not have clear and obtainable goal to reach.

During the past year of eating better and running, I have lost over 30 lbs. and I feel better than I have in years. I feel like a new and improved version of my former self. I have energy to play with the boys and I feel like I am healthy role model to them. They see how exercise should be a part of your everyday life. I hope Eli and Coy grow up to be active young men who take responsibility for their own personal health. Although, I think Anna is sick of hearing me talk about running now!

I wanted to share my lifestyle change story because I want to encourage others who want to live healthier. Anyone can make changes to their lives in order to drop a few pounds and feel better about you in the process. Get out there and walk, jog, or ride a bike, anything to get your heart rate up and burn some calories. Start slow and gradually build your activities up as your endurance and strength improves. Try to find something that you enjoy doing and something that will have fun doing for years to come. Set obtainable goals and work towards them. Don't be too tough on yourself. If you slip up and eat something that you maybe shouldn't have, just do an extra workout to make up for it. No one is going to be perfect, so don't expect to be. Indulge yourself in something as a reward for obtaining a goal.