Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My hunger issues

Since I've gone up to 120 g of protein a day, I haven't been hungry much at all. So Dr. Awesome was right about needing more fuel.

I am really afraid of hunger. I guess this is understandable because hunger used to be my enemy. Excess hunger is what got me back up over 220 pounds. I don't think it's what got me to 200+ the first time -- that seemed more related to a lack of satiety and bad eating habits. But once I got over 200, it's what got me back there every time I lost weight.

But my body isn't lying to me any more. So I need to learn to listen to it. At least within reason.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Raley's Deviled Eggs are the Devil

I got caught yesterday.

I went out with Mini-Mac on a bike ride. I had promised her we'd go to Subway on the way home. I don't like Subway much and never have. I'm not big on lunch meat or sandwiches, I guess. So I figured I would wait until I got home to eat and didn't bring anything. Or I'd get something there and eat around the bread.

Unfortunately, when I got there, neither option appealed to me. I was getting that sick feeling I get in my stomach sometimes if I go too long without eating and I didn't want to watch Mini-Mac eat for half an hour either.

So I went to Raley's and got something from the Deli. I got Deviled Eggs, thinking "hey, it's eggs; I need the protein." I even looked at the label, but misread the serving size.

So I'm thinking there is more fat in there than if I'd made them at home, but not too bad. Until I went to enter the food into "My Fitness Pal" and discovered that the nutritional info wasn't for two eggs but for two egg HALVES. Which means I had 33g of fat and 390 calories just from three little eggs.

Oh. my. god.

Of course, I went over my fat and calorie goals for the day. At least my carbs were super low and I got in all my protein.

I know when I eat out that I'm getting a lot of fat, but that was ridiculous. I bet there was more mayo in those things than egg yolks! They didn't even taste that good either. Probably because there was more mayo in there than egg yolks.

But the good news is that Mini-Mac had a good time bike riding and wants to do it again. I think we'll do it every Sunday, if we can.

Friday, March 27, 2009

It's easier to do it right

This is my latest revelation. It happened at my swim workout.

I have been making a lot of corrections to my swimming as various deficiencies have been pointed out to me. One of the last ones that came up is that I am kicking too much.

I have noticed that my flutter kick doesn't really get me very far so I have been kicking like mad to get more power. But apparently that's wrong. So on Wednesday, I tried kicking less. What a difference! I was actually gliding through the water faster than when I was kicking more.

The other thing I recently learned is that you are supposed to exhale continuously underwater and not hold your breath and let it out in little spurts. So I tried that too. I could not believe the difference. Breathing was so much easier and soon I was breathing every fourth set of strokes instead of every two or three. Of course, when I first started, I went backwards a little. But, much sooner than I expected, it was entirely natural to breathe that way and I was, again, faster in the water.

Which led me to this thought... it's easier to do things correctly. At least in sports.

So, if it's easier to swim the right way, does that mean it's easier to live the right way? To eat the right way? It seems like it should be.

I know that, when I exercise, I feel better and, when I don't exercise, I feel bad. So, in a way, exercising -- doing it "right" -- is easier than not exercising. Even though it doesn't feel that way when we're sitting at home thinking about how much energy it's going to take to change our clothes and grab our bikes and go.

Likewise, I know that when I eat low carb, I don't crave carbs and, when I eat more protein, I have more energy. I also know that sometimes I tell myself I have to have carbs, that I'll be deprived without them. Or that I couldn't possibly have one more protein shake today -- I'll gag. It's too late at night. I feel fine, so how bad could it be to skip it this time? Do I *really* need 120 g of protein a day?

Which leads to another question: why do we often times do things incorrectly and then whine that doing them correctly is sooo haaarrdd? Because, admit it, we all do that.

Part of it is probably the steps back. No one likes going backwards and it's harder when you don't really believe that you'll end up better off than you started. I see this all the time when people are trying to correct their form in sports. They can't accept the temporary loss of skills, so they go back to their old way convinced that they "tried that and it didn't work."

This happens whenever I try to up my protein. It always throws off my carefully constructed routine, leading to bad consequences. And that makes me whiny and convinced that I should just go back to my old ways. But if I persevere, I get a new routine and then all the benefits of doing it "right" accrue to me. Like not being as hungry and having more energy for my workouts.

But another thing that I think happens is that people convince themselves that the bad thing isn't that bad and/or the good thing isn't possible. Kicking like this makes me go faster; if I slow down my kicking, I'll sink. I must have chocolate every day or I'll feel deprived and, anyway, chocolate has anti-oxidants so it's really good for me, not bad for me!

Which reminds me of a song by The Killers:

"When everyone else refrained
My Uncle Johnny did cocaine.
He's convinced himself right in his brain
that it helps to take away the pain.
Oh Johnny."

Now, I've never convinced myself that taking drugs would make my life better. I have never been one to think that food was going to take away my pain, either. But I convince myself all the time that things that are bad for me are actually good for me. Or that doing it the "right" way is just too hard. Like right now when I'm writing this blog entry instead of writing code.

Of course, it's easy to see these things in hindsight; it's harder when we're in the middle of the choice. But I am going to add my experiences learning to swim with good form to my mental stockpile. If singing alone with The Killers doesn't remind me that eating too many carbs is not a good choice, maybe the image of gliding through the water faster with less energy expenditure will do the trick.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Scars - 6 months out

It's been a long time since I posted a scar picture. My scars are almost gone!



Okay, my scars from this surgery are almost gone. My gallbladder scar looks worse in some ways because it's not stretched out any more. So the 19.5 year old scar looks worse than the six month out scar. Isn't progress wonderful?

Six month pix and stats

Today at the track workout, our coach said "You're running faster." This has nothing to do with my six month stat update. It just made me happy.

Here are my pictures:



My measurements are:











Body PartTodaySince
Last
Time
Since
First
Time
Bust35313
Chest 30213
Waist30.53.510.5
Stomach40313
Hips37.5413.5
Thigh190.56
Calf1412.5
Arm10.514.5
TOTAL1876


No, I don't know why there is such a big gap between "My measurements are" and the table. Stupid blog editor.

MTYHBUSTERS: Starvation Mode

There are a number of nutritional myths running around out there on the web. Mythbusters is one of my favorite shows and misinformation annoys me, so I decided to do a series of articles on each myth examining what is and isn't true about it. (Plus stealing the Mythbusters title makes me feel like Kari Byron, or at least like I could be her mother.)

So let's start by examining the whole "starvation mode" idea that you see all the time in articles about dieting. I picked this one to start with because I'm now tracking my food on My Fitness Pal and the number of people there screaming "starvation mode" is about 10x higher than most of the other weight loss boards I go to. They annoy the heck out of me, so I want to "answer" them in a permanent way vs. just arguing with them over and over on the boards there.

So what is the Starvation Mode Myth? It goes like this:

"If you don't eat enough, you won't lose weight!"

Okay, so all I have to do to lose weight is ... eat more food! Wow, isn't that awesome? If I stall out at 800 calories, I'll just go up to 1000. And if I stall at 1000, I'll go to 1200. If that doesn't work, how about 1500? 1800? 2200? Oh wait, when I ate 2200 calories, I weighed 223 pounds. Okay, that's not going to work.

But what if I just don't go below the magic "1200" that "everyone" says "no one" should go below? That must be what they mean by "starvation mode," right? If I stay at 1200, I will lose weight but if I go below that, I won't.

The problem with this idea is that, if it were true, no one would die from starvation and obviously people do. Clearly, even if you eat what is obviously too few calories to be healthy, such as an anorexic does, you will continue to lose weight.

So where did this idea -- that not eating enough calories makes you not lose weight -- come from?

It started with the famous Minnesota starvation study. Some normal-weighted men agreed to live on a compound where their exercise and diet was strictly controlled. For portions of the study, they were on a "starvation diet" which is defined as 50% of the calories your body needs to function.

For me, these days, that's about 750-850 calories a day. So I was on a starvation diet up for the first four months after my surgery. Yet I lost weight just fine during that period -- better than fine, really. Most of the people on The Biggest Loser are also on starvation diets, from what I can tell. They may eat a lot more than I do but they also exercise strenuously 6-8 hours a day. So they are often below 50% of their calorie expenditure for the day. They seem to lose just fine too.

How can this be?!

The answer lies in what actually happened to the Minnesota guys when they were on their starvation diets.

Like most of us on a diet, their metabolisms did slow down. In fact, after they'd been on this diet for a while -- we're talking months, not days here -- their body fat percentage got to a point below what is considered minimal to live on (about 5% for a guy, 6% for a gal). At this point, their metabolism had slowed down as much as 40%. But -- and this is the important point for those of us on a diet -- they continued to lose weight. Even with that big of a slow down in their BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), they were still operating at a great enough calorie deficit to lose.

If this is true with a 40% slow down, it's even more true when the slow down is somewhere in the 14 - 22% range, which is more where if falls with normal dieting.

WARNING MATH CONTENT AHEAD:

Take an individual who needs 2,000 calories per day to maintain their current weight. Assuming calorie expenditure remains the same, they will lose (approximately) as follows:






CaloriesExpected
Loss
Per Week
Actual Loss
2,0000 pound0 pound
1,5001 pound1 pound
1,0002 pounds2 pound
5003 pounds2¼ to 2½ pounds


As you can see from the table, once you go below a certain calorie level, you aren't getting the weight loss you'd expect. This is because your BMR will go down more if you eat only 500 calories compared to eating 1500. But, as you can see, you are still losing more than if you were eating 1000 calories.

This is a lot different than the "no" weight loss that the "starvation mode" myth touts.

The other important point to note about this study is that it was performed on normal-weighted men. When starvation studies have been done on the obese, they find that the impact of the starvation diet is much less. Our bodies have fat stores designed to get us through a famine (i.e., a diet) and when we have a famine (i.e., a diet), those fat stores get used. The drastic slowdown of the metabolism doesn't happen until those fat stores are largely gone -- which takes a lot longer for the obese than for those who only have to lose 10-25 pounds.

So why are we told not to go under 1200 calories a day, unless under a doctor's supervision?

Mostly because, the more you reduce your intake, the harder it is to get the nutritients you need from food. If you are on a very low calorie diet (as I am), you need to see your doctor(s) regularly, get labs done regularly, etc. Not to mention, vitamin supplementation is a must. Doing what I'm doing on your own can be dangerous, as you may not know or noticed the signs of a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Don't forget: some vitamin deficiencies can kill you!

Another reason not to go below a certain calorie expenditure is that human beings are not machines and, unlike the guys in the Minnesota study, we aren't living on a compound with our activity and food strictly controlled. As a result, when we reduce our calories substantially, there is a tendency to subconsciously (or even consciously) reduce our calorie expenditure. Combine this with our tendency to under-report what we eat and over-report our exercise, and you can see where we can get into trouble.

As an example, one Saturday I did a killer two hour workout. After which, I came home and took a three hour nap! Obviously my calorie expenditure that day was lower than if I hadn't taken the nap.

Now, I still lost weight that week. But if I was only eating 500 calories for months at time, I doubt I'd be able to have done that workout to begin with -- I'd still be doing the 30 min. low intensity workouts that I started with. Plus, I might also be taking naps a lot more than once in a while. Both of which would have impacted my weight loss because they would have decreased my calorie expenditure.

Eating more over time has allowed me to exercise more so that, as a result, my rate of weight loss hasn't gone down as much as it could have as my calories have gone up. Plus I'm happy because I'm fitter and healthier.

In the end, it's important to consume enough calories that you have the energy to perform the daily activities you want to and to keep your body healthy. Otherwise, it's self-defeating. After all, the point of losing weight is to be healthier and to get our lives back. It's not to starve ourselves to the point of malnutrition and have so little energy we can't go out and do fun things.

If you want to learn more about starvation mode and read more details about the studies I alluded to, here are some good articles on it:

Are You In Starvation Mode or Starving For Truth? (some typos but the best summary article I've seen)

The Starvation Myth (where I got my table from)

The Truth about "Starvation Mode" (lots of research is discussed)

And here's an article from the other side... Tom Venuto is a big proponent of Starvation Mode and avoiding it. Yet even though the tone of his article makes it sounds like he disagrees 100% with the articles above, about 90% of what he says is exactly the same:

Is starvation mode a myth?- No! It's very real and here is the proof

P.S. I later wrote more on this subject dealing with what actually happens to our bodies when we diet/starve rather than this particular myth here.

Also, I keep getting SPAM in the comments even though they are turned off so I am going to hide them until I figure out why.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Six month check-up

I saw Dr. Awesome today. I was very excited going in because I knew he's be happy with my weight loss and, more importantly, I've been happy with my weight loss. I've really stepped it up lately and the scale is cooperating by showing it. I lost 10 pounds this past month after doing "only" seven pounds a month in the two months before that.

He wants me to continue doing what I've been doing and lose another 10 to 15 pounds. Give or take. That would put me at 124 to 119 and that seems right to me. But, honestly, I don't really care what number is on the scale. I'm concerned about how I look, what size clothing I'm wearing and my body fat percentage. I want it to be around 18 to 22% and he was okay with that too.

Their Tanita scales put me at 27.5% body fat while I got 25% with my calipers and 32% with my 20 year old Tanita. I believe their scale the most. My Tanita is always at least 5% high, sometimes as much as 10% high as you get fatter and I don't think the calipers work too well when you have a lot of excess skin; it throws them off. But they are better than my scale, so I'll keep using them.

Their scale also measured me at 133 pounds. Whee! But I will continue to use my scale for reporting my weight. It said 134. Two pounds to go until I'm normal! I'm hoping that will happen next week. Then the earth will stand still or something, because I've never been normal. Or maybe it will stand still because of my SCREAMING from the roof-tops that I'm at goal.

I did express that I was interested in expanding my eating. I've been really, really strict and it's starting to bug. Dr. Awesome, predictably, was not okay with that. He wants me to keep doing what I've been doing until I stop losing for 3 months (or maybe he said six; I forgot to write it down), then I can start experimenting. My feeling is that, if my weight stabalizes, I'm damn sure not making any changes! That's exactly what I want -- for my weight to stablize at an acceptable level. But with eating I can keep up for life, which is not the sort of eating I'm doing right now.

Plus I keep dreaming about binge eating when (a) I'm not a binger and (b) I don't even like the foods I'm dreaming about binging on. I think that's a sign I'm depriving myself too much. So I've started to think about adding in some carbs.

Dr. Awesome also wants me to eat more protein. He thinks I should eat 1 g per pound of body weight just like athletes and body builders do. I tend to agree with that, since I think of myself as an athlete now, but I can't eat 120 g of protein and stay under 900 calories. On the other hand, I definitely need more energy to support my exercise. After my big workout on Saturday, I came home and took a three hour nap! Maybe I should have eaten a steak instead.

So if I go up to 1000 calories, and keep my percentages of carbs, protein and fat the same, I get to eat more carbs without going crazy. Which is really all I wanted. I didn't want to start eating candy bars and ice cream every day. Plus he did tell me to keep doing what I'm doing and what I've been doing is upping my calories gradually as I exercise more. Yes, I'm well aware I'm rationalizing, but I really do think I need to have more variety in my food. I'm not talking about having ice cream and candy bars every day; just maybe having a bite of pasta or some potatoes with dinner once in a while.

Speaking of candy bars, I asked Dr. Awesome about protein bars and that's exactly what he said "candy bars." I happen to agree with him, but so many people eat them and then I start to think maybe I'm just being a hard-ass about it. But I find them to be a trigger food and a slider food. Plus they have tons of carbs for their protein. So no protein bars for me.

The only reason I want to eat them is because I can put one in my purse and leave it there for a month and also because I'm looking for something to eat after I exercise that has a bit more carbs than what I normally eat. Dr. Awesome says my normal choices -- string cheese and greek yogurt -- are fine for after my workouts. The workout people say 4:1 carbs to protein though. I think the truth is probably some where in between. I guess I'll stick to beef jerky for my emergency stash. It has the added bonus of being something I don't really like so I really do keep it for emergencies. I don't know what I'll do about workout eating; just keep trying things until I find something that works, I guess.

I'm also supposed to call him when I get under 120. Otherwise, I see him next in June. I'm assuming the 120 pounds and June will happen within close proximity to each other anyway.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My butt hurts

Yesterday our "New to the Sport" group (a.k.a. the Tri Newbies) did a killer workout. We started with core strengthening exercises at Al Painter's place, Integrate Performance Fitness. For an hour. I kid you not. An hour of intense exercises, some of which I could not hold for the required 45 seconds, that's how hard they were.

Then we all got our bikes and our trainers and set them up and warmed up while Al went home and got his bike. When he came back, he popped in a bike workout tape and we did intense interval training for about 50 min. Near the end, the power went out to the block, but we just kept spinning.

Then I came home and took a three hour nap! Today, muscles in my butt I didn't know I had are reminding me that they exist. I am not too sore elsewhere though. Just tired.

It was the last day of our "Champions" swim clinic today and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to do it. I went anyway and just didn't push myself as hard as normal and it was fine. I'm glad I went because we had underwater video taping! So I got to see what I look like down where no one can see. Apparently I have good elbow position. Even some of the good swimmers who leave me in the dust were impressed. My head position has improved dramatically from when I started as well. Yeah!

But I kick too much and my timing on my strokes isn't exactly right. Or rather sometimes it's acceptable and sometimes it isn't. I also am not breathing steadily ... which I already knew. I tend to go "blub, blub, pause, blub, blub, pause, blub, blub, pause" instead of "blub, blub, blub, blub, blub, blub". So more stuff to work on.

Plus the video tape makes me want to have plastic surgery. It's not just that I look fat underwater. Everyone does, even the skinny minnies. It's that my excess skin ripples. It's kind of distracting to watch, actually. Not to mention a bit gross. It's a good thing people can't normally see what's going on underwater!

They are talking about having more swim clinics. I'd like that as I'd like to learn bi-directional breathing. I can't breathe on my left-side for squat. Plus, it's a good way to get in swimming twice a week. Or I could just make myself come by a second time a week on my own, I guess. I keep saying I'm going to do that, but then I don't.

I'm also wondering about signing up for a membership at Integrate Performance. My workout partner at work and I have been talking about doing strength training. There are some guys who are approved to come to the free gym at work. But Al knows triathlon and he made our workout targeted for things that triathletes need. I don't think I'm going to get that with the gym trainers. On the other hand, I'm not sure I can afford IPF. It costs as much as a gym membership! I guess I'll have to think about it some more.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My first 5k - Race Report

Today I ran in my first 5K! It was the Shamrock 5K Fun Run and Walk. It was fun too.

I had no idea what to expect. Because it was a fun run vs. a RACE, there was a big mixture of people there. We had people running with their dogs and their kids, some in strollers, some not. There were people who walked the whole way or walked a lot of it. There were serious people who were wearing real racing gear with all sort of logos plastered on it and much less serious people in St. Patty's Day get-ups with google-y shamrock hats.

I put myself somewhere in between all these. I had on my running clothes though I did put on the event T-shirt on top, both for warmth and to meet the "wearing green" criteria. (The first 1200 finishers wearing green got a free lunch bag.) I started back at the 10:00 pace marker, but I think I should have started farther up. Even though my real pace is around 12 min. per mile. But I had to wade through too many people from where I started.

Weather:
After days and days of sunny weather, the forecast changed the day before to rain! I managed to convince myself that it would rain that night and clear in the morning. I was mostly right as it continued to mist throughout the morning, but not during the actual race. It was damn cold, too. I started out with my St. Moritz Ice Skating jacket on, which is designed to keep you warm in a 40 F (or lower) ice rink and was still cold. But after I warmed up, I traded it for the event t-shirt on top of my technical shirt. I was comfortable for most of the race, but was a bit warm at the end.

Pre-Race:
I woke up at 6:00, but really I never slept all night. I don't think it was nerves. But I'd been warned this would happen and to get a good night sleep the night before that -- which I had not done. I'll do that for my next race. I also woke up with a headache and a horrible pain in my chest and throat. I was worried I wouldn't be able to breathe, but the headache was gone by the time we left and the chest pain diminished enough that I forgot about it during the race.

When we got there, I wasn't sure what to do. Mostly I hung out with my bored family and talked to other racers. I finished my protein shake at about 8 o'clock, giving my stomach time to settle before the race. Fifteen minutes before, I walked around the block to warm up. Then some Jazzercise ladies showed up and started leading the crowd in Jazzercise. I figured this was a good way to warm up so I jumped in. And promptly remembered why I hate Jazzercise. So I bailed and just did my normal stretches.

Then I bounced in place every time I started to cool off. This got me warm enough to ditch the jacket. But it was still cold so I put on the event t-shirt in its place.

Every time I changed my outfit, I had to replace my number. I am so going to get a race belt for my triathlon so I don't have to deal with that.

The Race:
When the race started, I was psyched! Until my pants started falling down. I also realized that I had bounced out of my sports bra. So I spent the run up to the start line and a bit after that adjusting my clothes. I kept tugging at my clothes until they fell into place (but not to the ground) when I realized I hadn't turned on my Nike+. But I couldn't get it to find my sensor. Eventually I gave up.

So I was quite pleased to hear at the 1 mile split "11 min. 40 sec." That's better than I do at the gym! Where my clothes stay on and my Nike+ works. I tried to grab some water, but there wasn't a way to do it without stopping so I skipped it.

For the second mile, I tried to at least keep that pace, if not improve, but the split was 24 min. 42 sec. so I had slowed down -- probably because of the hill just before the split. It wasn't a horrible hill, more of a steady climb. Lots of people walked it though. However, I did the math wrong on the course, so I actually though I had improved. This gave me a boost mentally, even if it wasn't true. I also was able to grab water this time. But not drink it. Apparently there is skill involved. I just choked on it, so I gave up, figuring it was just a 5K after all and I wasn't going to dehydrate myself in three miles of running.

For the last mile, I wanted to push as much as I could, as our track coach taught us. When we got to the trail part, I knew we were in the last stretch. At some point, I heard a local say "there's the finish" so I poured it on, even though I couldn't see it myself, but it was sooner than the last 400 m and I ended up slowing down a bit to survive. I did push more than the first two miles though and, when I saw the finish line and clock at 36'10", I sprinted to the finish line, finishing the last 1.1 mile at 11' 39" - slightly faster than the first split for a total time of 36' 21".

That's faster than I've ever run the whole 5K and I never practice with hills.

I am confused though. I thought the race timing would have my personal time from the place my chip crossed the start line to the place it crossed the finish line. But my personal time is listed the same as it was when I crossed the finish line. Making it my time from when they pulled the trigger -- which for those of us back in the pack, was before we even started running. It would be nice to know exactly how long I did the race, but I'm guessing the difference isn't big enough to worry about.

Results:
Final time: 36' 21"
Overall rank: 585 out of 1089 - squarely in the middle of the pack
Age group rank: 25 out of 75 - top 1/3 in my age group. Woot, woot!

Post-race:
There was food to eat -- bananas, pizza and banana bread -- and the worst water I've never had. A band was playing on the stage -- blues and classic rock. I was starving and started wolfing down a banana before I remembered I can't really eat an entire banana these days, at least not at once. But I stopped in time, so no harm, no foul. I skipped the pizza and banana bread. I drank my own water and eventually finished the banana.

Then they started giving out the door prizes. I didn't win anything. I really wanted the mountain bike grand door prize, too. Darn. I also didn't place in my age group. But my time would have been competitive, if I was sixty. Heh. Oh and the kids who placed in the 5 - 8 age group all run faster than me too. (Some family with a stroller and a little kid smoked me on the race, so I wasn't too surprised by this.)

Then we went to the St. Patrick's Day festival and checked out some booths and rode the Tilt-a-whirl. Whee! The rides were too expensive though and it was freezing so we went home. Where I promptly took a nap. I was beat, probably from not sleeping the night before.

Next Steps:
I want to do more races! I picked up some brochures in the festival area. There's a 4 mile race about 10 days before my first triathlon, which also will have me running 4 miles. I think that might be good practice. There's also a 10K in October. Being able to run 10K at the end of the season will set me up well for moving up to the Olympic distance next season.

I don't think I'll bring my family to those though. It's too boring for them. They still have to come to my first tri though, boring or not. After all, it's my first tri!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My body scares small children

Or maybe it's just fascinates them. In a horrifed way.

On Sunday I went to my "Champions" clinic at the pool. I'm going through a particularly droopy phase with my skin right now so it doesn't look so hot. After 1.5 hours of swimming, it looks worse than "not so hot." Because not only is it droopy, but it's pale and wrinkly.

Anyway, we were in the shower washing our hair when a bunch of little kids came running in from their swim lesson. They were a bit shocked to see strange women they didn't know to start with. There was this one little girl in particular who wouldn't stop staring at me like she'd never seen anything like me.

I didn't think too much of right then because all the little girls seemed very shy of strangers. But as I left the shower area and went to change, the girl followed me. She watched me dry off -- with her mouth gapping open -- she watched me put on my dry clothes. Every time I turned around, she was there. Staring at me in horrified fascination.

I was a bit self-conscious about my resemblance to a blanched shar pei, but to be fair, I don't know if it was the wrinkly, droopy skin, or the enormous gash I have where the surgeon who removed my gallbladder, splitting me from just below the breast to my navel that had caught her attention.

Either way, it was pretty funny.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My bib came!

I signed up for a 5K a while back and it's almost here. Just 5 more days! Today, my bib number and timing chip came in the mail. Plus a letter about how the race will work and where to park.

This makes it seem so real.

I'm a little nervous about the race. I really want to run the whole 5k. I did run 3.5 miles today at our track workout. There were some rests in there but nothing like what I do on the treadmill. I rested about 30 seconds between each set of intervals and and another minute between the two sets. So 1.5 min of rest vs. the 3-7 min. I do on the treadmill.

I think I can do it!

Monday, March 9, 2009

First Open Water Swim

On Saturday, I had my first Open Water Swim.

Oh. My. God.

It was quite the experience and I'm so glad that I did this before my first triathlon.

First, we have the wet suit. I LOVE my wet suit! It's so much easier to glide on top of the water with it. I don't sink when I breath! I've been working on this in the pool and have gotten much better, but the wet suit makes it automatic and one less thing to think about.

I'm also doing better at wiggling into the suit. Body Glide rocks!

On the other hand, I had a lot of trouble making my stroke efficient. Again, this is something I'm working on in the pool. But my arms are a lot more constricted in the suit. I think I can improve this by putting the suit on better though. I didn't pull it up as high as I could have once I got it on well enough to zip.

But enough about the suit ... on to the actual swim.

It was freezing! I started off okay, but a few strokes with my face in the water and I couldn't breath! So I just faked it.. did a few breast strokes, tried again, couldn't breathe, more breast strokes. I was pretty panicked at first, but I remembered hearing about others who eventually were able to put their face in.

I had overheard one of our coaches, Sherry, telling someone she had taken out on an club-sponsored open water swim the week before that "you just have to do it". So I kept "just doing it" and eventually I got used to the cold and was able to swim normally and not doggy paddle or do the breast stroke.

Next time I'm going to go further out and try to really swim a bit during the warm-up so I get used to the cold much faster.

My next big issue was spotting. I am really, really bad at knowing where my body is in space. It wasn't that much of an issue going out as I was breathing on the same side as the shore. Plus there was a big blob of pink caps ahead of me to look for.

Which reminds me of another cool thing: I didn't have too much trouble keeping up. In fact, I wasn't the last person to the pole! Usually I'm always last and sometimes by a large margin.

But on the way back to shore, I was ALL OVER THE PLACE. I zig-zagged like crazy. I still had a big group to look for though. But they kept getting farther away. Plus, I kept thinking I was closer to the shore than I was and I kept stopping to check and realizing I had a lot further to go and starting back up again. There were still people behind me so I suspect I wasn't the only one doing this.

Then I tried to stay in the water when I walked back to the starting point, to stay warm, and that slowed me down some more. Plus I was staggering all over the place due to lack of equilibrium. I think next time I'll use ear plugs to keep more cold water out of my ears.

In the end, by the time I started on my second lap, almost everyone (except the ones who decided to only do one lap) were already up to the pole. I was sure I could catch up to them and I felt good so I took off. But spotting was more of a problem this time. In fact, on the way back to the shore, I was so disoriented that at one point I was heading BACK out to the Bay instead of into the shore!

This added a lot of extra mileage to my trip. So, even though I was smart enough to stumble to the start point on the shore and not in the water this time, by the time I got to the starting point, the lead group was almost back to shore on their third lap! I didn't want to hold up the whole group waiting for me to do another lap, so I just stayed there. I was also a bit worried about having anything left in my legs for the run.

So we all ended up in the parking lot getting changed for our run. We didn't really practice it as a T1 transition. This is a good thing, because I really sucked at getting out out of the wet suit. In the store, getting out is easy, but when your feet and hands are wet, they won't exit the legs and arms of the suit! Next time, more Body Glide is in order, I think.

By the way, I did try the trick I saw on You Tube of holding your cap and googles in your hand when you take off the suit so they get stuck in the arms and you don't have to worry about dropping them. It works!

I sat in my car to change and I had a really hard time with the laces on my shoes -- I had no strength in my fingers to push the lace lock on my laces. I would have been better off just tying them, I think. I had trouble getting my feet out and then I had trouble getting my socks on. There was sand everywhere on my suit and feet, which didn't help, the socks were sticking to my wet feet, which didn't help, but the main thing is that I just didn't have anything left in my fingers to brut-force it.

So maybe I need to learn to bike and run without socks? I'm going to try going sockless at the next track workout, I think. Assuming I'm brave enough, that is.

Then I ran. Again, everyone was way ahead of me. Plus I still have no watch. Then I must have turned a different way from the rest of the pack, since I never saw them again after a fork in the path. So I did only a 20 min. run, 10 min. out and back, instead of the 15 minutes we were supposed to. But it was okay. The hills got me a bit, but I did eventually get some oomph back in my legs. And it was so pretty running at Coyote Point.

Anyway, I had a blast. I do love to swim and I do like swimming in the wet suit and also outside the pool. I want to do another open water swim! Heck, I'd do this every week, if I had someone to go with me. It was so much fun!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Smaller than I think

I think everyone has an image of themselves that they carry in their head as the "true" them. In my case, my "true" me is about 145 pounds and 34. So whenever I looked in the mirror, I didn't see my age or my fat. Every once in a while, something would happen to force me to acknowledge it, but mostly I would somehow not see it. I would mentally subtract off gray hairs and flab and concentrate on the parts of me that supported my own world view.

Now I am 140 and for the first time, when I look in the mirror, I think "who is that person?" I am actually smaller than my own mental picture. I'm older too, of course, but I can still ignore that part. After all, my maximum heart rate is the same as subtracting 34 from 220 so that makes me 34, right?

But the weight part disconcerts me. I still worry when I'm walking around work eating a snack that people will be thinking "if she didn't eat so much, she wouldn't be overweight" even though, at the weight I am now, most people are wondering if I'm almost done losing. When buying a wet suit today, the salesgirl kept looking at Smalls even though I knew (from trying one on two weeks ago, that I was actually a Medium in most brands.

So the world doesn't see me the way I see me. When I was fat, they saw the fat and I didn't. Now I'm within 10 pounds of a normal BMI and they see a regular person and I see a slightly tubby person.

The hard part about not seeing yourself as you really are is that it can lead to fooling yourself. When I was 140 before, I looked pretty good. But I couldn't maintain that weight. As my weight kept creeping up, I'd tell myself that this new, higher weight wasn't so bad. I still looked pretty good, in fact.

I told myself that 155 and it was probably somewhat true. I told myself that at 165 even though I was starting to have trouble clothes shopping again and I couldn't fit into off-the-shelf skating dresses. I told myself that at 175 even though I was now clinically obese and stuck in the Plus Sizes. I think I figured it out that I was fat by the time I hit 195 though.

I don't want to fool myself again so I need to figure out how to really see myself. I am practicing. For example, I pick up clothes in the store and guess if they are too small for me, too big for me or just right without looking at the tags. Then I look at the size on the tags to see if I'm right. I'm also making myself really look at myself in the mirror every day.

Some people at goal weigh themselves every day so they can't convince themselves they aren't gaining when they are 5 pounds over their goal weight. I think that would drive me insane, so I will have to come up with another way of making sure I don't start gaining and tell myself it's really not noticeable.

Hey, I just realized this is great excuse to go clothes shopping every other week. Honey, I'm not wasting money buying things I don't need. I'm working on my body dysmorphia!