North Shore Sprint Triathlon

Friday, August 8, 2014

Race Change, Weight Goal and Training Updates

 It's been quite awhile since I posted an update, and thanks to the numerous reminders from those who have been reading I felt the need to share what's been going on lately regarding training for my first sprint triathlon.

The most important update is that I no longer will be doing the Chicago Triathlon on Aug. 24, instead opting for the North Shore Triathlon on Sept. 14 in Wilmette. The main reason for the change is the crowd, as I'd like to have a smaller contingent of other competitors - especially in the water - for my first go at this. Secondly, it also gives me a few more weeks to train - again, especially in the water.

This morning's weight came in at 144.4, which means I'm 1.6 pounds for my goal weight for the race with plenty of time to spare (even if I was still doing the Chicago Tri). On a more personal note, this marks exactly 30 pounds I've lost since February of 2013. And if you realize that's on a 5-foot-nothing frame, it's a pretty big accomplishment for me. After our honeymoon in March of this year, I came back in at 159, so that's 15 pounds lost since then. Had I not decided to get in shape for this triathlon, I may not have been able to get to this weight. It was a good goal to set to get me motivated.

The above photo is my roundtrip bike ride from Chicago to Northbrook yesterday, as I rode to work in the morning and then home in the evening. No question I'm tired and a bit sore today, but doing roughly 40 miles in one day isn't something I struggled to accomplish. I can do this sort of thing regularly.

My running stamina has increased exponentially as well, as a 5-mile run at around 9 minutes per mile is now basic. I have Tuesday and Wednesday off work next week and plan to do a couple of brick workouts baring the weather in Chicago. I'll likely head to the lakefront trail and ride about 15 miles and immediately following that with a 4-mile run. Those numbers exceed what the triathlon calls for, but without adding a swim prior to those exercises I want to make sure I do a little extra.

As for the swimming? Don't ask right now. Next week is when I begin to really hunker down and get myself in swimming shape in the pool at my gym. Also, I'm understanding that the water temperature in Lake Michigan for the race may call for a wet suit, so I need to start looking into those.

That's where I stand right now. My goal by the end of next week is to be down to 143 pounds and maybe dip into the 142s.

Thanks for the support!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Training Program vs. Bartl's Goals

When I logged on to write this and saw the countdown at the top of the page, I realized I have less than three months until the big day. The training has seemed to go by very quickly, and I know the days leading up to the race will slip past me even faster if I allow it happen.

While I've kept up with the training - especially as a beginner - I'm having the feeling that I haven't done enough and need to work harder. As I mentioned in a previous post, I put a lot of pressure on myself and set expectations high. Not just with training for my first sprint triathlon, but always. The race won't forgive me for losing days of training by not fighting through the obstacles put in front of me - no matter how unavoidable.

This weekend I had the honor of being a groomsman at my buddy Brad's wedding. The amount of fun I had was well worth not being able to train for three days, but at the same time they are days lost that I can't get back. I ate, drank and let loose, ignoring the training program for the entire weekend. These things are going to happen when your good friend gets married, and there won't ever be a single regret for having a good time and not sticking to a strict training plan.

The main thing is how you respond to any type of "setback." I woke up this morning after a day of recovery from the wedding and ran 2.5 miles with a time I'm proud of at this point. I can feel my endurance level rising as I get back into the running shape I was at this point last year. Earlier last week I didn't let the poor weather get my down. I got up, went to the gym and did my own version of a mini triathlon. I swam for a half hour, rode 10 miles on the stationary bike and ran two miles on the treadmill. It was the closest thing I could get to a simulation for the event and felt good doing it.

My main problem right now is that I had a mishap with my bike. I set off to ride my bike to work - roughly 18 miles from Chicago to Northbrook - and didn't get even a quarter mile until a bungee cord snapped off my bag and wrapped itself around the chain hub. My dad hopefully will be able to fix it tonight when he comes by, but if he can't I'm stuck on the stationary at the gym until I can get it fixed. The stationary is a poor replacement for biking outside over hills and also finding a rhythm with speed. It's just something else I have to fight through.

Last week before the wedding I was on a roll with my training and felt myself coming along. I dropped another couple pounds down to 147, putting me at 11 pounds lost over the course of the training. I am going to begin incorporating light weight training to build my muscle endurance, which the program calls for me to do.

So here we go. Less than 90 days until the race, and I have a little catching up to do - maybe not within the program, but to bring myself to my own satisfaction. And really, if I have that kind of mental attitude without over-working myself, I think I'll be in good shape.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Week 2 Update, Plus Diet Obstacles That Lie Ahead

As I mentioned in my previous post, the most challenging aspect of training for my first sprint triathlon will be to learning how to swim correctly. I've been watching some online videos on proper form, balance, breathing techniques, etc., but I can't seem to get the hang of it. Combine that with my complete lack of patience, it's becoming annoying to get in the pool and struggle.

I should be taking a step back and realizing that it's going to take some time to nail something down that I've really never done before in my 32-plus years on this planet, but telling myself that isn't working. I'm the type of person who sees a goal and wants to accomplish it in the least amount of time possible because I expect a lot out of myself. When I'm having trouble with something, I get frustrated.

I'm balancing those emotions a little better and have tried to focus on the fact that even though I am not swimming as efficiently as I'd like, I am at least burning calories in a new way and getting a different workout, which will eventually help me. And hopefully in a few more weeks, I'll be doing much better in the swimming aspect.

I've made up for the lack of swimming progress by exceeding the biking and running goals listed in the training program. Yesterday, I biked from my apartment to the lakefront and rode to Navy Pier and back to my place, totaling 14.28 miles. I followed that with a two-mile run, completing my first Brick Workout a week and a half ahead of time. A brick workout consists of stacking two disciplines of the triathlon into a single workout to help simulate race day. It felt very good, though I know there's a long way to go to be able to do that consistently while also adding an almost-half mile swim along with it. But I'm getting there.

I weighed myself this morning, and here's an update on that progress:

Starting weight: 155.6
After Week 1: 150.4
After Week 2: 148.8
Race Day Goal: 143

Losing seven pounds in two weeks isn't bad, but I realize that's mostly the water weight I'm getting off me from eating poorly and not working out as much in the 2-3 months prior to the training. Dropping the rest of the weight will be much more difficult, so losing those five pounds to reach my goal will be tougher, especially since I plan to gain some muscle weight in the process.

Also factoring in is that I slipped a bit last week with a sandwich from Al's Beef and pizza the following night. While a couple of "cheat" meals aren't the end of the world, making them a habit is the problem. I've been eating rather well since, but there are more challenges this weekend.

I'm going to Indianapolis for my buddy Brad's bachelor party, leaving Friday afternoon and coming back Sunday morning. Along with not being able to complete a workout for two days, I won't be able to fall back on my salads and healthy meals I've prepared for myself. With alcohol involved, the urge to eat unhealthy, quickly and late at night will be something I'll have to do my best to overcome. I think I can stay away from the late-night indulging, but there won't be many healthy options available. It will be unavoidable to take in the calories of the alcohol because, let's face it, I won't be sober much at all.

Next week, I go back on the day shift and will have to overcome the obstacle of a completely different work and training schedule, which I have to figure out on a trial-by-error basis. I'll be posting updates on how that's going.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles - Daily Schedule

Today is one week since I began training for the Chicago Sprint Triathlon, and here's an update on what I completed as part of the program:

Run: 10 miles
Bike: 10 miles
Swim: 200 yards

Starting weight: 155.6
Current weight: 150.4

The first week of the program was admittedly pretty easy, other than the swimming portion. I even exceeded the running goal, so it wasn't a ton of overall work. Even that, combined with a healthy diet, was enough for me to drop five pounds, though, which shows that I wasn't working out consistently enough in the past couple of months.

What I'm most proud of after the first week is my ability to push through my unusual schedule and complete my workouts. I am currently working a 6pm-2am shift, meaning I sleep and relax most of the day and go to the gym after work - sometimes not getting home until about 3:30am. It's not easy driving home on empty roads from Northbrook to Chicago while thinking about just skipping the gym and going to bed. But I know that if I want to complete this training and get in the shape necessary for the triathlon that I have to overcome the mental aspect that could hold me back if I allow it to.

Last night, for instance, all I wanted to do was go home, watch some TV and cash out after work. That thought lasted all the way until I parked my car outside the gym. Once I got on the treadmill, I ran the three miles in a decent time and felt great afterward. I would have regretted not going this morning. It's always easiest to just say, "I'll just skip tonight and work harder tomorrow." More often than not, you don't. This training isn't going to be easy all the way through, so why try to cut corners at all? If I'm in this, I'm in it all the way.

There are plenty more obstacles to overcome in the coming weeks. I have plans to watch some hockey with some buddies tonight, and then my dad comes to visit tomorrow night on my two off days from work. Though today is a scheduled day off from training, I'm going to have to wake up earlier than normal tomorrow to get in my workout, and I plan to do so.

Next week, I have a bachelor party to attend in Indianapolis, so I'm going to have to rework the training schedule for the entire week to be able to skip two days over the weekend while I'm out of town. Then, when I return from Indy, my entire work schedule shifts to 10am-6pm. My entire workout schedule will need to change along with it, and it's going to take a lot of planning to do so.

The point is, there is always going to be an excuse or an obstacle that can drag you down if you let it. Something will come up every day. Even driving past a fast-food restaurant can make you say, "Well, I'll just grab a couple of cheeseburgers today and then work them off tomorrow." Unfortunately, it doesn't work as well as you think, and more often than not you'll enjoy those cheeseburgers and then regret the hell out of it later when you're sitting on the couch and skipping your workout.

This is only the first week of training, and I've already encountered plenty of challenges that I have to fight through. It's only going to get more difficult, but I have to push through it.

115 days.

Monday, April 28, 2014

And Here... We... Go

I remember the shock I felt when I stepped on the scale and read the impossible truth.

"No way. I absolutely do not weigh 174 pounds. No. It just can't be."

That was in April of 2012, when I knew I had gained some extra inches but did not feel I was overweight, per se. And while 174 pounds may not seem like much to you, it felt like a piano strapped to the belly of a then 31-year-old who is barely 5-foot-6 and tipped the scales at around 110 pounds his senior year in high school.

I had intended before that day to get myself back in some sort of shape, drop some pounds and become an overall more healthy person. That number just put the turbo thrusters onto the whole process. The 7-Eleven in Wicker Park rang up thousands of dollars in frozen pizzas, sodium-packed sandwiches, bags of every chip you can imagine - mainly Funyuns; I love Funyuns - and whatever else I could find for an easy fix in the four years I lived in the area. Luckily I had decided to quit smoking on my 30th birthday, or my overall bill might've looked like the national deficit.

Finally, I had grown tired of being tired. I was sluggish at best throughout my days, and the nights were short on the occasions I didn't go out drinking. Looking back, all I gained were unnecessary pounds and an acceptance of being fat and lazy. And when I was going out with friends to the bar, all I really was doing was finding a reason to stay awake and not fall asleep on the couch.

Fast forward to November 9, 2013 - the day I was lucky enough to marry my beautiful wife, Nichole. I weighed 146 pounds. My best 5k time was 23:49 out of the many I had run in a year and a half. I was going on 8-mile runs for fun and got mad at myself when I didn't. I was eating much better, keeping out the fast food and toning down on my beer drinking. 

There were lulls - the main reason why it took me so long to drop the 28 pounds - plus a stay in the hospital for a bleeding ulcer that kept me inactive for roughly two months following, but I consistently would lose any of the little amounts of weight I gained back. I wasn't a fitness buff by any means of the imagination - and I'm still not - but the dedication I made to being a healthier individual worked for how I needed/wanted it to work. I wasn't looking to get ripped or bulk up. I just wanted to feel better and get some energy back while dropping some weight. I did that.

Between the wedding, Thanksgiving, Christmas, moving from the suburbs back to the city, New Year's, our honeymoon to Hawaii and the 75 inches of snow that hit the Chicago area throughout winter - and into "spring" - I lost my edge again.

Now, it's time to get it back.

I have been talking for a year about completing a sprint triathlon. And even though my wife thinks I'm going to drown during the swimming portion, I've made it a goal of mine and I'm taking it seriously. On Wednesday, April 23, I began an 11-week training program that combines swimming, biking and running portions tailored to build my endurance in all three categories. There was no diet plan, so it's on me to make smart choices when eating and control my portions and calories.

I've printed out the daily plan and put it on my refrigerator, and I'm crossing off the days as I complete them. I'm motivated, and even though it's been less than a week into the program, I'm feeling accomplished with each requirement I complete.

Yes, even the swimming portion. It's much more difficult when you're not standing in water three feet deep shooting at a poolside basketball hoop. Essentially, I have to learn how to swim all over again.

I won't have a bike until later this week, so I've been doing the biking portions at the gym. With the weather being nice, I've gotten back to my outdoor runs. The program calls for some short ones, but I've been able to exceed those times - which the program encourages to do.

I've been eating variations of baked chicken along with brown rice and steamed vegetables for dinner, eggs and a bagel for breakfast/lunch, salads on occasion and low-calorie snacks. I was forced to eat out once, but I got a grilled chicken sandwich with low-fat honey mustard and a side salad. I've been really, really good with my diet, and I can notice the change in my energy in my workouts.

The countdown at the top of this page is for the Chicago Sprint Triathlon on Aug. 24. I'm going to be there. No questions asked. I'm doing this, and I can't wait. Here are the distances for each portion, which are to be completed in succession:

Swim: 750m (0.46 miles)
Bike: 22k (13.67 miles)
Run: 5k (3.1 miles)

The total distance for the race is roughly 17.3 miles.  The training program takes me through July 7, and then it's on my own to put a training plan together to get me prepared over the final month and a half. And I'll be ready.

I hope to post about every other day with updates on my progress and what I'm doing to get myself in shape for the race. A main reason I'm starting this blog is to keep myself accountable, but I'm also hoping to inspire some of you along the way.

And here... we .... go.