Success at the Broad Street Run!


#success #broadstreetrun We did it!!!

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Yesterday was the one hundred tenth day of my fitness program, but more importantly, it was the culmination of my original goal: to get in shape to do the Broad Street Run. More to the point, I did not want to struggle through the race. Rather, I wanted the race to feel good and be something I could enjoy.

Mission accomplished.

The run was so much fun because of the involvement of the various Philadelphia communities. Mayor Nutter gave high fives, Episcopal churches sang praises, Catholic churches cheered along, Temple’s football program joined its band and mascot on the sidelines, dogs gave high fives (yes, really), the elderly peeked out of their windows to smile and wave, and jazz bands played soulful music. The run was the fun part, the moment where I realized I was in the shape I needed to be to actually take in the sights and sounds without much difficulty.

We ran under the two hour conservative estimate. Back in January there was little chance I could make it even close to the two and a half hour cutoff, just knowing how painful it was to run at all. I was prepared to run a 1:30 (and our initial pace indicated that effort), but it was important to run together and in the process I understood that supporting my teammate was exactly what she would have done for me if the roles were reversed.

***

The day really started the night before, as I attempted to get to bed by ten (but ended up not really falling asleep until eleven). For six hours and nineteen minutes, I had a pretty decent sleep, with the only concern being the overall hours. My Deep sleep, Light sleep, and REM (dreaming) all were within normal, healthy ranges. The number of tosses and turns were low relative to my usual habits to all culminate in a sleep score of 80%. I normally have a low to mid 90’s sleep score most days, but the need to wake up early Sunday meant that hour the evening before when I could not fall asleep was the difference:
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We were out the door within the hour of waking up and headed to the subway stop in Center City. The walk itself was nice, and the weather was chilly but comfortable. The subway was packed as it raced to the Olney stop on North Broad Street. When we got to ground level, we could not locate our team’s tent (Back on My Feet), so we made our way to the designated corral. The race was to start at 8:30, but we understood that it would take another thirty to forty minutes for our corral to start. There were long lines at the restrooms near us and we ended up learning these lines would not diminish over the various stations along the course. We had brought some cereal bars but no technology, unlike almost everyone who had earphones ready to go. As an aside, the race organizers explicitly prohibit the use of earphones during the race, but this rule does not appear to be enforced. As a regular cyclist on Kelly Drive, I can say that I am firmly against the use of earphones, as it makes people completely isolated from their surroundings, causing crashes and all kinds of traffic that would not occur if people shared the path. But I digress… 

On to the run: We started at 9:06 AM, at which point the clouds broke for some shining sun. The first mile was a mix of slow jogging, plenty of fellow runner dogging  and finding our form. We hit the first mile in ten minutes, which was a speed I had felt comfortable I could maintain the whole course. Our second mile was in nine and a half minutes, at which point we intentionally slowed. The halfway point is at Spring Garden, not City Hall (as one would expect), so before long we had completed five miles. North Broad was very lively and fun, as we made it through diverse neighborhoods and Temple’s campus. Center City was beautiful, easily the highlight of the sights and sounds. South Broad, between Center City and South Street, was home to the most creative signs, such as “I bet it sounded like a good idea three months ago” and “Race now, cheesesteaks later”. The true South Philly experience included no parked cars in the middle of Broad Street! It was such a welcome change.By the time we were near the sports complex, the crowds thickened. The extra motivation helped us cross the finish line smiling and content with our results. Below is what my Basis fitness tracker record:
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*Unfortunately, for whatever reason, my Basis did not record heart rate (it usually does) at all during the run until the very end

As you can see above, skin temperature and perspiration rose in tandem, as the day warmed and the run progressed. The average number of steps fluctuated in coordination with various mile markers. Essentially my running partner would slow the pace after each mile marker. Her personal style is to do interval running, in opposed to my consistent pace training. It frustrated my ankles, for sure, but we made it work. For the day, I had burned 3,660 calories, logged over thirty four thousand steps, and completed my first run, the Broad Street Run.

In the end, we succeeded at finishing the run and doing so under two hours. It’s a good start to the running season, and I will continue my fitness efforts over the next several months by using this success as a motivator keep it going! Also, yes, we did have a cheesesteak post race. Also, I slept much better the following (last) night:

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Tracking the BSR Tomorrow with My Basis



Tomorrow is the big day! My first ever “run” and it’s one hundred and ten days after I made the commitment to get in shape and do the Broad Street Run. I hit my goal of thirty-five pounds lost by the day of the race.

I’ll have my Basis (as I always do) fitness tracker, so the day after the race I will post alongside my race results my metrics from the ten miler. Included in that information will be analysis of the ever-important sleep the night before race day. Until then, I’m just trying to calm my nerves less than 24 hours before the race starts!

Example Sleep Analysis:sleepexample
Example run data:
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$1,000 Raised!


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January 15, 2014 – I signed up for the Broad Street Run through the charity Back on My Feet, committing to raise $500. Back on My Feet assists people experiencing homelessness with housing and employment.

May 01, 2014 – With the help of so many contributors, including my employer, the $500 has been met three days ahead of the race…and will be matched by my firm by the end of the quarter! $1,000 will go to this very worthy cause.

I want to thank everyone who donated, followed, or otherwise supported (e.g., read the blog, commented, etc) this effort over the past three and a half months. I appreciate the friends, family, and coworkers who have been there along for the journey. This journey has been a parallel effort between fundraising and fitness. The compliments and supportive feedback I have received have been the fuel to keep me motivated and build momentum.

Today I attended my firm’s wellness fair, in which I received my bib for the Broad Street Run. I have no idea how to put it on. If not for the stories of people stealing bibs at this year’s Boston Marathon, I would post it here. I also received a team shirt, which humorously is a size too large (I couldn’t guarantee I’d lose a full size back in January!).

For these last few days, I will ease off the miles a bit (running four to seven each day over the past few weeks). I have also made sure not to introduce any new quirks to my training or diet, as everything is pretty much on autopilot now.

I do plan to blog my results as well as all the fun details my fitness tracker will record. Ten miles should be fun!!

Thirty Pounds Lost!

Donate to Back on My Feet to help the homeless.

It’s been three months and seven days, and I am thirty pounds lighter. My Body Mass Index is now 5.2 less than when I began training on January 15.

I didn’t blog over the past several weeks even though I had several posts ready to go. Much of what I had written was a reflection of the seemingly endless cold temperatures and the monotonous workouts in the gym. Since the weather broke about two weeks ago, I have been outside as much as possible. Many of the routines (repetitive playlists, treadmill time) have been replaced with actually enjoyable exercise (biking thirty plus miles at a time). While I should have focused exclusively on running, the truth is that I needed a mental break with my favorite passion (bicycling) to keep up the exercise.

At this point, all the heavy lifting in preparation for the Broad Street Run is complete. I ran ten miles a few weeks ago (with a break in between the two fives) and I have consistently raised my tempo and distance over the past month. I also ran outside for a bit, given how late spring is this year. I’ll keep the workouts going, but I will probably just keep things steady and not look to run another ten miles until the day of the race.

Regarding my weight, I targeted a loss of 35 – 40 pounds by the Broad Street Run (January 15 to May 4). It looks like I just may make the 35 pound loss mark by then. If not, I still have fundamentally altered my fitness, and I think the difference in a few pounds at this stage will not be nearly as dramatic as the first thirty lost in my preparation.

You can see above that I am near my midpoint in my overall weight loss plan. It is important to note that the target loss is if I reach my ideal weight (four months away), which is much different than when I hit a healthy weight (in just about two months). I will include more details in future posts to provide further context, but I have always considered the Broad Street Run as a great near-term goal to spur more longer-term efforts.

Twelve days to go!!

 

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One Month Until the Broad Street Run!

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.

BSR start

One month from today I will have run the Broad Street Run. I can hardly believe how quick the months have gone, even with the cruelty of an especially cold winter. My progress to date has continued on pace with my expectations, as I have increased my time and stamina while decreasing my weight.

When I signed up for the race, I made the conscious decision to focus first on my weight loss and second on my running time. Given that in January I was unable to run for more than a few minutes at most, I felt that the number one priority had to be a reduction in weight. No matter how much of a running base I established, it would only produce results as far as my frame and Body Mass Index would allow.

My hunch, which was a bit of a gamble, has seemed to pay off. This past Sunday I ran 10.2 miles total (5.1 at a time and around two hours of rest in between).  My pace was 11:30, which is not ideal but certainly light years better in both time and pace than anything I had previously been able to accomplish.

I do recognize that over this next month I will need to up my calorie intake a bit as it gets closer to the run, just so I can ensure I get all necessary nutrients. While I will not completely switch away from weight loss, I do intend to target my running form and comfort with longer times. I will not run another ten miles more than once before the big day, and I will make sure to do so before the week of the race. I also will adjust to running outside, as to date my runs have been on a treadmill. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but now I need to take advantage of the slightly warmer weather to get comfortable with less controlled environments.

As for my fundraising efforts to help the homeless, I want to thank everyone who has donated so far to get me to $375!! As a reminder, Active.com is but one of many ways to donate, so it only catalogs donations through that website. Please see below for the full breakdown:

1) $130 from generous donors via Active.com
2) $200 in Well-Being Rewards my company gives for healthy habits
3) $20 from generous donors in person (I will be providing this amount and any other in person donations shortly to the charity)
4) $25 registration fee that goes to the total fundraising amount

I have only $125 to go to the $500 minimum required with one month left of fundraising. As I had mentioned previously, I will be receiving a matching amount from my company following the run, but it does not go to the minimum required before the race. So the total amount will be a minimum of $1,000 to the charity Back on My Feet.

If you can and would like to, please click on this link to donate!!!

Two Months (+One Week) in the Books

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
water
Having been on a vacation split over two weeks (Wednesday, March 12 through Tuesday, March 19), this is my first full work week in awhile. I continue to look at the above picture as a reminder of where I was not too long ago. Unfortunately, given the climate here in Philadelphia, I probably will not enjoy such waves until late May at the earliest…

A return to a full work week also means a return to simpler meals and nights at the gym. Gone are the long walks on the beach, the heartier meals, the swimming in the Gulf, and the promise of a reprieve from the Northeast cold. Instead, I get to enjoy this lovely struggle of Spring prying longer days and warmer evenings from the grasp of the most aggressive Winter in memory.

At this point, it has been over two months and a week since I started my fitness program on a cold Wednesday in January (the 15th). Looking back, I notice immediately several improvements to my health and daily routine. I also look forward to my intermediate goal for the Broad Street Run as something not too far into the future.

So, how have I done?

Officially, since January 15, 2014, I have lost 22.3 pounds and dropped 3.9 in my Body Mass Index (BMI). Unofficially, I had tipped the scales a few weeks prior to January 15 about five pounds heavier, which would increase my progress accordingly. I will stick to the official dates though, so I do not skew my results.

My step count has risen significantly, although I think it is worth separating weekends and vacation from weekdays. Weekdays are consistently around 12,000 steps, whereas weekends and vacation are somewhere in the low to mid 20,000’s. My resting heart rate is somewhere around 52-56 beats per minute and my caloric deficits are still in line with my goals. In general, during weekends and vacation, I tend to trend closer to 2,000 calories consumed and 3,000+ burned, whereas during the week I trend near around 1,400 to 1,700 consumed and 2,600 to 2,800 burned. I now run at least four to five times a week, for a minimum of 15 – 20 minutes a day, with one day above 30 minutes and another approaching an hour.

The weekday breakdown of my calories is much better than in the beginning, as I have increased my protein as a percentage of calories significantly, resting slightly under 30%, and I have accordingly decreased my fat as a percentage to 22%. Carbohydrates have lessened to around 48%. Weekend and holiday breakdowns are not nearly as positive, but I manage them as opportunities to eat a bit more and yet still maintain a caloric deficit equivalent to what I produce on a weekday.

My running has improved as I can run longer and faster than before. I try not to go all out on runs, as I am still mainly running on treadmills (minus during my vacation, where I refused to use the fitness center and instead would rather run in crazy wind on the beach). Physically, I feel less stress on my ankles, which used to be the very deterrent for me to get into running in the first place.

More aesthetically (but also important), I have noticed many changes to what I wear and how clothes fit. At the end of February, I had to buy a new belt which was four inches smaller than my previous belt, and I am at the moment on the second to last rung of this new belt. I fit into my old swim trunks that I had stored away in some “fingers-crossed” hope that I could someday use them again. I did the same with a bunch of suits I bought back at the start of my job in the late summer of 2010. They were lost causes (and expensive ones at that!) for the past three years. They fit now, although I am holding off on wearing them until the current suits get their worth out of them. I had bought them not too long ago, and while they have plenty of room at the moment, I probably have another couple of weeks max, before they are just too baggy to continue to wear.

Hitting another milestone is like a jolt of extra energy, as I really had struggled a few weeks before my vacation to feel excited for what I was doing. Even though the results were continuing to impress, I had gotten to a point where I wanted to achieve another milestone for the sake of feeling accomplished, and I was getting impatient. It is easier to look after a complete month and notice the weight loss than to incrementally feel good about a few pounds here or there. I got to a point where I was even frustrated with the fact February only has 28 days, and therefore two days less within the month to lose weight.

Of course my mind has consistently looked forward a couple months out, so I purposely use this blog to reset my perspective and appreciate my success to this point. As I had mentioned in  a previous post, my downfall the last time I lost significant weight (sophomore year of college) was that I had paid no attention to the successes I had and rather focused on the room to improve.

As I continue forward over the next month until I hit my next milestone (completing three successive months of this fitness program), I hope to continue the success I have had to date. In the process, I will need to adapt to some new variables at play such as rainy weather, potential travel, and a decreasing Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). At this point, my increased confidence welcomes these challenges.

Back from Clearwater

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
clearwater
I just returned early yesterday morning (2:00 AM) from a week of sun, waves, sand and baseball down in Clearwater, Florida. I already miss the high 70’s / low 80’s and constant walks on the beach. Spring training was fun, even with a team that has more than its fair share of critics. I am probably just the eternal optimist, but I think the Phillies may surprise some people. I could see them compete for the second wild card.

Given it has been awhile since any new posts, I do plan to update the site quite frequently over the next few weeks. As you may have already noticed, I changed up the theme and header image, given snow should hopefully be a thing of the past!

It helps that there are a number of topics of interest I want to discuss. It is a very different feeling than a few weeks ago, where I felt my posts were lacking. I have learned that it is very hard, when in between milestones, to come up with interesting premises on a consistent basis. It probably is 90% mental, as the grind can be very grueling and hard to justify at times.

Going into my third month of fitness training, I may try to better pace my posts, and save certain topics for when I’m not so close (in either direction – coming off of or about to achieve) to a given goal.

Below is a list of themes (in no particular order) I’d like to explore over the next month on the blog. (I am writing them here to remind myself):

Two Months in the Books – General fitness update. Even though I hit that mark this past Saturday, I want to wait a bit until I am back in a “steady” routine to weigh myself for official results. The variables of water weight, eating times, and general routines can create quite all kinds of noise around real results.

Fitness training when on Vacation – I’d like to take a look at all the data my watch collected (and yes, the instances where I finally went watch-free when swimming). I definitely had a different, but hopefully an equally successful approach over this past week to continuing my weight loss.

Recap of my Vacation – This will tie in the fun of the trip with both the difficulties (eating more, treating yourself) and positives (no sitting at a desk) I experienced.

A Busy Spring – Within the next three weeks I expect to be exercising outside in the evenings, which will present its own unique challenges and opportunities. I also will resume (for the final time) studying for the GMAT in the mornings, so I will have an even more packed day. My previous attitude was I couldn’t handle a consulting career, GMAT Prep, and substantial weight loss all at once. Now will be the test.

My Longer Term Goal – I’ve been pretty focused on the short term goal of the Broad Street Run, but to be honest, in the back of my mind I have been eyeing August and my target weight for awhile now.

My Workout Playlist – With the exception of activities outdoors, I rely heavily on a playlist to get me through what can be very monotonous exercise.

The Will To Continue – I try to capture the efforts and attitude needed to continue when I am between milestones grinding through another seemingly endless week of workouts.

Building New Habits – I explain the process in which I have fundamentally changed my routines to facilitate my weight loss.

Here’s to another successful month ahead!

Will I Miss the Snow?

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
So the easy answer is a resounding “No.”

Regardless, this past weekend I made it a point to continue the multi-week tradition of hiking a state park with my dog. It is one of the last holdouts of snow, as the area is not plowed and the lake keeps temperatures a bit cooler than surrounding communities. Even now, it is primarily a slush-filled hike, but I enjoy the effort for some uncommon reasons.

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#1 – There are not many people at the state park during the colder months, especially when you are looking at multiple feet of snow on a hiking path. The less number of people the more desolate, but also the riper for exploring off trail and allowing my dog to roam without a leash. That last part is easily the most enticing for the both of us. I tend to walk at a steady pace, whereas my dog loves to start and stop, run ahead and lag behind, in a zig-zaggy fashion that is much more fun to observe than to battle against.

#2 – The packed snow makes for quite a hike for myself and a breeze for my dog. She is light enough to tread comfortably over the snow without much issue (aka falling through the snow), while I am going to take extra effort in planting each step through the powder. It also keeps the scenery from feeling recycled, in that we have done this hike more than ten times this winter, and each time it feels a bit mysterious given the conditions.

#3 – The cold air keeps the hike from feeling exhausting. I notice my dog does not want to drink that much water on such hikes, as her body temperature never really goes too high. In general, it keeps the activity from feeling difficult, even if the end result is a great workout.

#4 – More snow means less defined paths. The fact is each part of the park is carefully curated in the spring, summer, and fall seasons. During the winter, it feels a bit more like a wilderness. Animals are out, the trees are bare, and in general things are much more serene. Soon, these same hikes will become leisurely walks, which while fun, are not nearly adventurous (but ten times more populated).

#5 – We always want to look ahead. If it is the winter, we look towards spring. If it is spring, we are excited for the summer. Come late August, everyone starts thinking football season, then Halloween and finally the holidays. Sometimes it is worth it just to live life as it is and take in where you are and what you are doing as is.

#6 – Winter is underrated in the early months of a new year and overrated in December. It is romanticized for Christmas, but rarely delivers for the holiday itself. Then, like a flip of a switch, everyone hates the snow and the cold during the months it is most potent. January, February, and March are marked by people taking shelter and staying inside for most of the day. The fact is, these months can be more than just an early sunset if you find something constructive to do. Besides most people do not go to bed any earlier and instead just watch television later into the night.

#7 – The days are getting longer. Ever since the end of December, the days are getting longer, sunlight last a bit more, and yet we act pretty much through the start of March like the days are still ending by 4:30 PM. The reality is that the past two months the sun has been staying out longer even without the help of Daylight Savings. More to the point, by the end of June, the days begin to incrementally get shorter.

Now for the above seven reasons why I do not necessarily mind the weather now, I have to admit it is much easier to rattle off hundreds of reasons at the forefront of my brain as to why I am sick of snow and will be happy to wish it farewell for several months. Anyway, I figure I can at least tell myself those above reasons have kept me sane over the past few months of what has easily been one of the harshest winters I can remember.

Springing Forward

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.

We are a few days into March, and it appears winter still has some punches it wishes to deliver. I made it a point this past Sunday to do another seven mile hike in the snow with my dog, knowing that the days of winter must be limited. I also have had my fill of running on a treadmill to get through my workouts, as this weather really has kept me from doing anything outside during the weekdays.

springforwardIt got me thinking about my habits and how they will change over the next month, specifically as we spring forward and (hopefully) thaw. Typically in the past around March, I would start considering a bike ride or two, after many months of hibernation. Given that I already am very active and focused towards the Broad Street Run, I am not sure if I should switch to biking just yet. I have all the gear to do winter / early spring rides, but I know that I enjoy a bike ride much more than a run. In short, I am concerned that my progress in running, which now borderlines on semi-enjoyment, could be undermined by my true passion.

I go back and forth, as I would like to see how my Basis watch measures my typical biking activity, and yet I really do think the gains I have made in training for the Broad Street Run should only be enhanced, rather than paused. For example, I am able to sustain longer, faster runs during a workout, allowing for greater confidence in doing so for ten miles come the day of the race.

I also am curious how I will take to the longer evenings, especially as a result of turning our clocks forward. So far, during the weekdays, I focus on my fitness in the evenings, to allow for a rested and paced morning before work. If it starts to look nicer outside, but the cold remains, I may have cabin fever continuing in the gym each night. The remedy may be a bike ride or two outside, as I know I will not be up for running in the cold just yet.

Another point of uncertainty is where, in terms of geographical location, I will be working over the next month or so. There is a good chance I will continue to be local in Philly, but depending on projects my practice has, I may be off to NYC or some middle to northern part of New Jersey. This would be a big test, as I most definitely struggled with my weight when on traveling projects in the past. I think I have a strong fitness base now, with habits over the past 51 days that are going to be difficult to undo overnight. The good thing is that coworkers are acknowledging the results I have had so far, and therefore these results lend credibility to the seriousness of my commitment.

I have to think at this point I have enough established in terms of routines to weather any number of these concerns. Even then, over the course of this fitness plan, I already have made substantial changes (for the better) to my regimen, so by April I may have  a completely different approach to continue the weight loss.

Enjoying…Running?

Help me raise $500 for the homeless through the charity Back on My Feet.
runclub
Let’s get this straight: I have hated running for as long as I can remember having an opinion on the subject of running. It seems so pointless given there is no ball to catch, no opponent to tackle, no puck to chase. It is slow in the most literal sense. It is also clunky. A cyclist will whiz by and a hockey player will glide past even the most talented runners.

It is why I dislike soccer and field hockey. Clunky is the best word to describe something where running intersects with goal-oriented athletics. I would much rather watch an ice hockey game than see cleats stumbling around a grass field.

I have a history with running too, as I recall training for the basketball team in tenth grade, during “optional” (heh) pre-tryout workouts. It was all running, no ball. I got the concept and I appreciated the lesson being taught. But I despised the approach with a passion. To run three miles every day after doing sprints for most of the evening was tiresome and in many ways demoralizing.

Now it has not helped that over the past few years, my fitness level has declined, in so much that I was getting winded even during basketball pickup games. I have always relied on an ability to will myself into the play, given no real natural talent at the sport. To no longer have that extra gear was disheartening the past few years. There is no doubt in my mind that come this fall I will get back to playing basketball and potentially ice hockey too.

In the near term, however, I have but one focus: running. I have continuously been running during this fitness program, and at times I have found myself almost, dare I say, enjoying the activity. It’s a weird enjoyment, as I thoroughly enjoy cycling, in part for how it feels to bonk (completely be spent) and then recover, which is easy to do once you reach a summit. Running does not exactly have the same effect, but in a way there is a kindred spirit shared through that endurance that I have noticed.

Some of this new-found, shall we say, appreciation, for running comes in part from less stress on my joints through reduced weight on my frame. I will hold off on stating interim results until I reach the end of the second month of training (given I started on January 15, I will post an update similar to my “One Month in the Books” post probably the week of March 17). I can say though that the difference in weight has been substantial and steady, so much so that I have noticed an ease in extending my running times and speed.

I am unsure if it is purely my repetitive practice at running or the necessity of bearing such an activity that is creating at least a cease fire regarding my usual hatred of the sport. Whatever the case, I welcome it, as I have plenty of time left to continue this training…