A Significant Detour


I look back at my triathlon experience of ten years ago with great admiration.  All the pain, every cheer, every milestone and every race brought a perspective to life that I would never have thought I would experience as a kid who hated PE class.  But, it didn’t last.

The Great February Illness

In February 2012, I got sick.  I was at my prime and the lowest weight of my adult life, under 200 pounds.   As it turned out triathlon had become an addiction.  The months leading up my sickness, I was desperate for a PR and was trying to keep up with the more “professional” athletes. My body said “no more races.”

And so, began a steady and slow return to life as an obese adult.  The weight came back on over a few years.  I still managed to ride the bike and get some runs in, but I was not seriously training on a regular basis, nor was I working with a trainer.

The Workaholic is Back!

In late 2013, the workaholic returned.  I joined a local company as a sales analytics and operations guru and this role turned out to be far from a 9 to 5 role.  The CEO had an extra special personality and required some baby-sitting, as did the Sales VP.  I remember the day I walked into the office and said “F*ck it!” to self care and working out. It was simply too hard to protect your lunch for a nice ride.  It was difficult to ride in the evenings as you got stuck on deliverables and winter brought darkness at 4:30pm.  With an occasional ride on the weekend, my attempts to stick with an intensive workout schedule went out the door. That was a mistake.

Seattle or Bust

I moved to the greater Seattle area.  I had family in the area and needed a reset. But after AricInTraining - Skagit Classic Map17 years of life in Santa Barbara, CA, moving anywhere else was rough, especially a place with at least 5-months of rain and no sun.  I have to say, Washington state is a gorgeous place to live.  I see why everyone wants to live up there.  But with all of these people, traffic, cost of living, and jobs became more and more of an issue.  Seattle’s I5 is a freeway that going one mile can easily take 30+minutes, on a good day.  Riding the bike was a rare event here, as was hiking and even going for a walk after work.  The best moment is that I did finish the Skagit Spring Classic. The 27 mile ride through some exquisite, but soggy country side was proof I still had it in me. Of course, I didn’t walk for a few days after that.  But as time went on, my remote job drove me into isolation and my diet started seriously south in terms providing nutrients over junk.  After two years, I had to make a change and save my life.  The miserable me left rather quickly for Boulder County, Colorado.

The Gorgeous Front Range

Boulder County, Colorado is a gorgeous place.  It is also in the Front Range of the eastern slope of Rocky Mountains.  Boulder is where Mork and Mindy (Wikipedia) lived. Boulder is also where very serious cyclists can be seen cycling in a blizzard, further proof you can do anything when you are prepared!  What drew me to the area is not only the beauty, but the cycling culture.  Boulder County has hundreds of miles of recreational paths.  From the apartment I was living in Louisville, I could access that network from my door.

AricInTraining with Cookie Monster JerseySo why didn’t I ride? Yes, after two years of Colorado living, I only managed to get a handful of rides in, the longest of which was about 10-miles.  As it turns out, my head was bigger than my muscles.  That 10-mile ride did me in.  My legs screamed, “give us a break”, while my head said, “let’s go 100!” Now, keep in mind, Denver is the mile high city and I was living at 5,360 ft above sea level.  I was not used to the altitude.  I was also not used to the extreme dry air and the pounding sun.  Dehydration is too easy.  I was living in one of the most gorgeous areas of Colorado and found myself stuck in my 400 sq ft community garden plot rather than on the bike.

Horribly Sick

Then came January 2019 and my health went south very quickly.  I returned from a friend’s visit in Santa Fe, New Mexico over the holidays to Louisville and became very sick with severe cough, fever, stomach issues, lack of energy, tight chest, inability to focus, and extreme pain in my left calf.  After a week of not getting better, I went to urgent care.  Well, they were quick to diagnose it as bronchitis and sent me home with an inhaler and some antibiotics.  I got better, better then I didn’t.  The chest tightness wouldn’t go away and neither would the cough.  Life as a coughing zombie was the new normal, which was tragic as I just started my dream job in analytics.   After a second visit to the urgent care, I was diagnosed with asthma, given more inhalers, more allergy meds, and a word of caution to get out of town after an allergy test.  The doctor suggested there might be something in my apartment trying to kill me, including my cat.

Allergy Meets GERD

After following the treatment for a few weeks, I got better.  I was learning about asthma and its triggers and inspecting my apartment for what might be killing me.  What I kept finding was a fine grey dust all over the place, almost like lint when you wiped it up.  Then spring came and I turned off the heater.  Then I started to get much better.  The tightness in the chest and the cough subsided.  Long story short, the allergy test revealed a severe allergy to ragweed and dust mites.  I was also diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea and GERD (severe acid reflux). The first key to understanding what happened became the allergy to dust mites as the sleep test revealed a large amount of dust in the air and the air quality really started coming in to question. The second became my own eating habits with too much coffee, too much refined food, and just too much food.   At this point, I had had enough of Colorado and decided to head for lower altitude and better air.

I ended up in San Antonio, Texas where I am typing this today.  Not the prettiest city, but it does have a lot to offer.  The cyclist isn’t the best, nor are the “bike routes”.  But the people, the food, the accessibility, and the cost of living are easy to handle.

I have eliminated coffee and sugars for the last seven days and am feeling really good. My energy is coming back and my stomach feels more like it should. I am also monitoring the amount of food I eat in one sitting and am learning when to stop.

What’s the Point?

So, what’s the point of all of this?  I wrote a really, really long blog post about my significant detour from the wonderful life of triathlon. If you’ve read this far, I congratulate you.  For me, the point of all of this is to make sense of the last few years as I come to another fork in the road along my journey of life.  It makes me realize that I never gave up.  I may have digressed, I may have had some bad times, I may have been living in an apartment trying to kill me, but I persisted through it all.  I didn’t let the negativity win.  The voices in my head certainly challenged my resolve many times, but at least I pushed through it.  I realize a change in attitude and a return to regular training is in order.  Where it goes from there, we’ll see.  Stay tuned and see where Aric ends up.

 

 

A New Beginning


Life.  It happens.

We get pushed, pulled, twisted, and stretched as we conquer our fears, chase our dreams, accept our limitations, and diligently execute on our responsibilities.

Sometimes we make a change seeking something different and better, only to fall down and wish we had never made a change.  It takes us longer to get back up and moving again with another change to change course on the original change.

After moving to Seattle from Santa Barbara, I fell.  My heart was still in paradise and my inspirations were swept away with the grey, dreary rain and cold of a Seattle winter.  Not only did I learn about my allergy to high humidity and barometric pressure changes, but I learned how much being true to yourself and your values is far more important than making any new life work.  There is much more to this story which will be revealed as I move into this new beginning.

This fall, I am relocating to Colorado.  The area of Boulder and Louisville at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.  I was born in Englewood, so I feel like I am coming home.  Unlike Seattle, Colorado has a lot more sun during the winter even though it is significantly colder with periodic snow.

You can tell a lot about whether you are in the right place by how you feel. We humans have an instinct which helps protect us.  From the start, I never felt great about living in the Puget Sound area.  By contrast, I am happy in Colorado with a collected, calm head.

This is a new beginning.  A restart of my love for fitness, cycling, and triathlon.  I have 25 “Seattle” pounds to shed and a training program to rebuild.  But I’ve done this before and have fond memories of my triathlon journey.  I am looking forward to not only meeting a bunch of new people, but also feeling great again.

You know, life happens.  But now it will happen a bit differently.

The Next Challenge


Coming off the heels of my February Challenge with mixed results, I am struggling to find another challenge.  I have to say, my diet seems to be a bigger hurdle in my fitness rather than getting the workouts in.   But then, focusing on diet seems rather boring compared to cycling miles, especially when it comes to data visualization.

The Ultimate Challenge

Then, this evening I stumbled upon Outside magazine’s online site.  A headline in particular caught my attention for a couple of reasons.  First, it included a drive I have on my bucket list, a drive I would love to do in a 67 Hurst equipped Pontiac GTO, dark blue. Second, I have been reading a touching book by Bruce Weber called Life is a Wheel. And, third, I am desperate to do something insanely huge with my life to solve this midlife crisis I seem to be in.  You can see where this is going??

The headline was simple, profound, and eye catching.  Whoever wrote it knew what they were doing.  The headline was a simple question: “Why Drive Route 66 When You Can Bike It?

OMG! Its perfect!  The article was announcing the latest adventure documented and mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association.  The 2,493 mile route cover Los Angeles (well, Santa Monica) to Chicago.   I never knew there was a AAA-like Trip Tik for cyclists!!  Sell everything and let’s hit the road!

After spending a fair amount of time looking at the remarkable cross country routes, I am jazzed.  The TransAmerica Trail is very similar to the route Weber covers in his book. It was his story of life, the open road, and the spontaneous experiences combined with the pain of an insane challenge which intrigued me.   To do something similar is a personal accomplishment, something which I can only experience in my own way and own in my own way. The only question is, which do I do first, Route 66 or TransAmerica?

Coming Back to Reality

With my longest ride in over a year being 16.5 miles, suddenly 4,228 miles seems a bit of a stretch. Even the 400 mile average daily ride might push me farther than expected, even if it was all flat.

Coming back to reality and a challenge appropriate for the next two weeks (3.15), the diet challenge is more realistic.  In researching potential products for TrainingMetrix, I came across an article which discusses how to measure food quality.  They do this by assigning a weighting to each of the macro-nutrients, such as fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates, etc.  The product is a food score, positive for good, negative is bad.   The staff at TrainingMetrix modified this theory and improved upon it in a product we call the Yum Score. You can test the food you eat by visiting the Yum Score Calculator (TMX has closed) at the corporate website.

But, this post isn’t about shameless self promotion of my company’s products.  Rather it is about my own journey of life, fitness, triathlon and everything in between.  Back to the challenge.  Using the Yum Score, I would like to challenge myself to eating better by maintaining a Yum Score of 4 or greater from 3/3 to 3/15.   This means low saturated, low sugar, and lots of fiber.

Well, I better go eat the last of that chocolate cake tonight.  The challenge begins tomorrow.

February Cycling Challenge Results


February Cycling Challenge Results

Fitness challenges serve an important purpose.  First they help the athlete focus on a specific part of their training.  Second, they provide a measurable milestone which provide feedback.  Third, if the athlete has taken the challenge seriously, it will result in improvements, regardless of whether the ultimate challenge was met.

The Challenge

A month ago I created a personal cycling challenge to help get myself moving more consistently and lose a bit of weight.  The challenge was to cycle every other day, increasing mileage as I went and cover 230 miles by March 1st, culminating with a 20 mile ride. This seemed challenging, but I knew if I could stick to it and put in the mileage, I could get close.

Reality Sets In

The first three rides were fairly easy, but aggressive.  I didn’t stick to the planned mileage, riding a mile or more than planned for the first two rides.  The third ride was a bit of a stretch and fell just short of the planned goal.  Then I started missing rides.  Two days passed before I rode again. The body was realizing and feeling how aggressive it was to go from riding 8 miles to 11+ miles in no time flat.

This was the start of riding whenever I could while not pushing my body too far. It was also difficult to get rides in during the week of the 18th when an important client was in town for a project.  While catching up to the plan was nearly impossible, I kept riding, trying to get a decent amount of miles in.  It is more important to listen to your body and skip a ride for recovery than to push too hard and injure myself.

The Results

I completed the challenge with 144.4 miles compared with the 230 planned challenge miles.  While this is only 63% of the distance, I still feel great about the challenge.  Yes, I missed the ultimate goal, but my average ride went from 8 miles to 12 miles.  I feel great and am quite happy to be spending more time on the saddle.  Time in the saddle is a spiritual place where I spend the miles brainstorming and solving problems.  The challenge was a success.

Cycling Challenge Actual vs Plan
blue bars represent actual rides with green being planned. Actual falls a bit short

Did I lose weight?  No.  Starting weight was 229.8 with the final weight at 230.6.  The change is statistically insignificant was the deviation across the month was 2+ pounds.  After all of those miles sure would have been nice to be slipping into a smaller sized short.  But at the end of the day, body weight ins’t necessarily an indicator of fitness.  I feel and look more muscular than when I started the challenge.  As an athlete works out, they build muscle, which is heavier than fat. So, a change in weight can be delayed as the body burns more fat than the muscle in builds.  A better measure would be waist and wrist size.

The Next Challenge

With March 1st nearly here, I am thinking about my next challenge.  I like the idea of doing another cycling challenge, but would also like to incorporate a dietary challenge.  Cutting flour and sugar from my diet completely worked extremely well in 2008 and 2009 during my racing best. So stay tuned…  a new challenge is coming.

A February Cycling Challenge


I’ve been so far away from a regular exercise routine, I see death coming for me and he’s across the street. It’s time to get back into a routine and put a little more distance between myself and death. Just the fact that he is so close and I let him get so close is just shameful, but that is a topic of another post. This post is about the new beginning and a new personal challenge.

A Proud Triathlete

In 2009, I was a proud sprint triathlete who worked his way up from finishing at the back of the age group to the middle. I could run a mile and not even get tired. I could cycle 30 miles and call it satisfying, 40 miles would be a workout. I also almost lived at the gym. I had an awesome trainer, participated in the local triathlon club, and enjoyed every minute of it.

Until the day in early 2010 it all came crashing down. I was insanely sick with a nasty cold for 2 plus weeks and lost my fire. I just couldn’t live at the gym anymore. It seemed life had gotten the best of me. And so, I started a slow, long digression back to a state somewhere between office potato and triathlete. I wasn’t exactly not exercising and I wasn’t exactly eating healthy, but I wasn’t “training” either.

Getting Started Again

So today, as the scales push 230 pounds and I feel the fat accumulating on my skeletal frame, I am making “training” a priority. Training means I have a goal in mind, milestones to measure against and I will eat the best food I can. I already have an awesome food log setup in Excel using the TMX Yum Score. I even have an awesome training log setup in Excel thanks to TrainingMetrix (disclaimer, it is my company). I am lacking a trainer, but in the beginning that is fine. I have also decided to focus on hiking and cycling until I lose a few pounds.

What is the challenge? The challenge is to drop at least 10 pounds and cycle 230 miles by March 1st. Yep, riding every other day, starting at 8.5 miles, I will cover 230 miles and an average of 7.4 miles per day. Along the way, I will shed at least 10 pounds. If I can do this, I will not only be ready to start running, but also be able to squeeze into my tri shorts without looking like a muffin top in the pool. hehehe

The First Challenge Ride

I got started early with a ride yesterday covering 9.3 miles. The ride was along Mountain Drive in Santa Barbara and the weather was nearly perfect. The rolling hills and meandering canyon road was certainly challenging with acceleration, braking, and dodging cars on blind curves.  Certainly a bit sore this morning, but it is great to get a solid start. Many more exciting miles to go.

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/685701361

Check back for the next update.  A 9.5 mile ride has been scheduled for 1/31!

Keeping the Flame Alive


Fire.  It is inside every triathlete. It is what makes us jump into freezing water.  It is what makes us ride 112 miles and then run a marathon!

As strong as the Fire can be, it is also quite delicate.  The Fire can spit, cough and even die out.  When it does, we don’t do the crazy things that triathletes should do.

Here are some quick tips on keeping the Fire alive and well inside you:

  • Track your workouts closely, paying attention to intensity
  • Listen to your body and giving yourself a day off
  • Have a regular yoga session in your weekly routine
  • Hang out with the right people and DON’T listen the over competitive professional wanna-bes out there
  • Eat the right food when you need it, if that means a few bits of ice cream on occasion, so be it
  • Never be afraid to question your coach, sometimes they are driven by testosterone than the good of their athlete
  • Spice up the routine, switch cycling and swimming days
  • Try a new route, services like Endomondo and MapMyTri have libraries of route submitted by users
  • Sleep, and get lots of it.  10-12 hours a night might just what your body needs
  • Set long-term, reasonable goals; if you have never done a 5k, you certainly won’t be running a marathon next month

Keeping that fire alive isn’t that hard. It takes patience, awareness and the long term vision of your goal.   Keep your on the prize and never forget where you have been.

The New Year Brings New Goals!


Resolutions 5k Run kicks off 2012

As we begin flying through the new 2012 calendar and say “whew” after running my first event of the new year, it is time to outline my goals for the year.  Instead of doing a half dozen events, I feel like 2012 should be the year of simple and calculated performance.  Let’s focus on one or two larger goals and let the rest fall in as they come.

Choose Your Distance!

Recognizing the diversity of the triathlon sport, 2012 will be the year to step up.  First, I will complete my first “long” course triathlon.  This means swimming a mile in the ocean (really?), biking fives time longer than a sprint, and running more than 3x’s the distance.  But, that’s how we roll and continually improve our performance.

The event of choice for my first long course triathlon is none other than my home town event, the Santa Barbara Triathlon on August 25th.  Why travel when you can roll out of bed 45 minutes before start and still wait for horn?    To read more about the daunting 1-mile swim, 34-mile bike, and 10-mile run ahead, check out the course description.

After surviving my first long course, I thought it would be an excellent recovery opportunity to finish the Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint in the fastest time possible on September 30th.  After going long, the shorter distances are going to be a breeze (I say that now!).   The Carp Tri is my favorite and I can’t think of any better way to end the season with a solid showing on a course that I love so much.

Host Your Own Event When You Can’t Find It

But, my biggest goal yet, which is not necessarily directly related to training, but is fitness oriented, is going to be awesomer.  I am directing the Goleta Duathlon, held on May 20, 2012 in the “Good Land” of Goleta, California. The best part about a duathlon (run-bike-run) is the lack of swimming with the sharks! I am still in the process of obtaining permits, I can’t wait to share a bit of California’s Central Coast with other athletes and allow them to share in this memorable event.  From now to May 21st, life is going to be interesting.

Cooking Paleo, Cover to Cover

Of course, an individual needs their “fun” goals as well.  Life can’t be all training and race directing.  This year I decided to get back in the kitchen and cook!  The goal is to make every recipe (minus recipes with allergies) in a paleo cookbook from cover to cover.

The book for 2012 is Paleo Comfort Food by the Mayfields. I’ve owned this book for a while, but haven’t had a chance to really dive into the scrumptious recipes inside.  By the end of this year, though, I will be a paleo comfort food master!

Wish me luck!  I set the bar extremely high, but I know I can achieve!

What are your goals for 2012?