Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Perfect Exercise Food...

I've struggled with what food to use to maintain energy during long runs/rides. I can't carry enough Gatorade on a bike to provide substantial caloric benefits and I don't really care for the texture of PowerGels. So, I thought "what is small, full of energy, individually wrapped, and tasty?" and I came up with none other than the BEST CANDY IN THE WORLD: Sesame Crunch.

I've always loved Sesame Crunch. It's the BEST CANDY IN THE WORLD. Don't bother arguing with me on this. If you disagree--you're wrong. The problem is it's hard to find and prohibitively expensive even when you do manage to find it (upwards of $10/lb at botique candy shops in malls). So I did an Internet search and found a place that would sell it to me for $1.50/lb. But they did have a minimum order size restriction, but that's no big deal:

So I'll keep a handful of these babies in my cycling jersey pouch. I just have to figure out how many calories per candy and I'm in business!!

NOTE: I went on a bike ride during "lunch" today (I work at home and my employer lets me be somewhat flexible with my schedule so long as I get stuff done and put in the time--i.e. late nights, early mornings, and weekends). Anyway, at the 10 mile mark my BESC* average speed was a paltry 16mph. At that point I took a quick break to down a handful of the UNDISPUTED BEST CANDY IN THE WORLD. That's right: 100 calories of pure, magical Sesame Crunch.

Every 5 miles or so I ate another Crunch or two--which is easily possible while riding full speed due to the genius of their individual packaging. The result: at the 40 mile point my AESC* average was up to 17.4mph and I had fuel left in the tank.

Oh yeah baby, that's all the proof you doubters need. The only question now is why I only ordered 20 pounds.

* BESC = Before Eating Sesame Crunch
* AESC = After Eating Sesame Crunch

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Good and Bad of Daily Weigh-Ins

I've been keeping track of my weight and my caloric intake/deficit for about 13 months now. Here are some of my observations:

(1) When I go a while without weighing myself or tracking my caloric intake/deficit (i.e. dieting), I invariably go up in weight. What I've learned from this is that I cannot use my biological indicators as a guide of when/what to eat. I must consciously limit myself and document those limitations.

(2) Weighing myself daily is a great way to provide accountability but it can be frustrating because eating a heavy meal one night can result in a three pound "gain" the next morning. Water weight and the weight of food in the digestive tract are significant (easily a 5-pound swing). So although it's important to weigh myself every day for the purpose of holding myself accountable and establishing long term trends, I also need to be willing to not stress out over or overcompensate for normal fluctuations. For example, I can certainly see myself avoiding anything to drink (including water) in the evening because of my morning weigh-in. Such fanatacism is obviously counter-productive to the goal of establishing long term patterns of health.

(3) Unless I burn 1200+ calories in a day, my hunger level increases to match my activity level. So, in short, it's not enough to simply exercise three times a week to stay thin. I must exercise and track food intake. That really sucks, frankly.

(4) When I'm off the wagon (i.e. not tracking my calories), I find myself almost intentionally eating crappy foods: fluff carbs, candy, chocolate, chips, ice cream, peanuts, crackers. It's almost like I've got the proverbial angel-on-one-shoulder-devil-on-the-other going on. I think this is largely a never-ending psychology versus physiology battle--perhaps a rebellion against discipline--in much the same way as the stereotypical recovering alcoholic doesn't just have one glass of alcohol over dinner when he falls off the wagon: he instead drinks an entire bottle of Jack Daniels and drives drunk. This is perhaps the most interesting (and frustrating) observation I've made about myself. It's a sort of love-hate relationship with being fit.

(5) I believe I have a high level of what I'll call "conscious discipline" but a very low level of "subconscious discipline." What this means is that if exercising is my current hobby, I'm extremely dedicated and passionate about it--arguably to a fault. But when another interest takes its place, I have no discipline at all. It's an all-or-nothing, one-track-mind mentality.

(6) Maybe it's just sour grapes on my part, but it seems that evolution has left us (me?) painfully unequipped to deal with an abundance of food. Obviously, the presence of essentially unlimited carbohydrates is not something with which our species (or any other species, really) is accustomed. If you think about it, if early humans had something like a 6-month famine, the individuals with the highest proclivity toward eating more calories than their bodies burned during times of abundance would be the ones most likely to survive. I'm thinking of buying a few T-Shirts for my Mormon friends that say "I'm wearing my 72 Hour Kit under this shirt."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Myrtle Beach Bonk Report

Today was the Myrtle Beach marathon and it reminded me why I hate running and love cycling. I had signed up for both the Marathon and tomorrow's Metric Century bike ride as a backup in the event that I had a running injury. And, as it turns out, I started having ITB problems about a month ago that put a serious damper on my running.

Still, I figured I'd run half the marathon (the course is in a very convenient figure-eight with the full- and half-marathoners running together for the first loop) and then just drop out when I passed the half-way chip timer. Then I'd presumably still have energy to do the bike ride tomorrow.

However, after 13.1 miles I felt pretty good and had a time of 1:48 so I figured that despite my lack of training I would go ahead and see how well I could to for the entire marathon. I was getting very tired but at mile 20 I was at 2:48 and figured that it was well within my reach to run a 3:38 for the entire marathon (I ran my first marathon in 3:54 at St. George last October).

At mile 21 I hit the wall. I felt an immediate numbness in my hands and got a weird chill sort of like an endorphin rush only with the exact opposite effect. Almost immediately, both of my calfs started cramping up and I had to stop running. Just like that. It was probably a combination of not training enough and not hydrating well during the first 10 miles.

Cardiovascularly, I was fine so I started walking in hopes that I could get fluid at the next stop and only lose 5-10 minutes or so. But by then it was too late. Any time I tried to run the cramping restarted immediately. Walking was fine, running was not. So, I walked the last 5.2 miles and finished with a time of 4:13. I felt great but those last 5 miles took FOREVER. Fortunately I had an iPod to keep me from getting too bored but I ended up with blisters from trying to walk fast (13:45/mile).

In retrospect it would have been better to stop at the halfway point because I'm waaaayyy to tired/sore today to be able to do the bike ride tomorrow. Oh well, it wasn't a total loss. I learned a couple of lessons and I'm motivated to restart my marathon training (after a couple months off to train for the Cactus Hugger bike ride) in hopes of running a 3:30 time and eventually qualifying for Boston.

Here's a photo from the marathon, taken while I was walking those last 5 miles:

Possible captions include:

- "I just walked the last 5 miles!"
- "You can't make me run so stop cheering."
- "I'll walk if I want to, dammit!"