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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Training Program

Now that I've lost significant weight and have gotten myself into reasonably good shape, I begin the next phase. The 2011 running season is behind me and my sights are now set on the Cleveland Half Marathon.

As one of the 8 members of "The Cleveland Experience" team selected by Ohio Sport and Fitness Magazine, I got to meet with John Rolf an acclaimed exercise physiologist. John put me through a series of fitness tests to see what kind of condition I was in and came up with a custom training plan for my quest to run in the Rite Aid Half Marathon in Cleveland this coming May. The fitness evaluation contained four tests, each with one having a maximum score of 250. The tests measured strength, flexibility, endurance and aerobic capacity. I scored miserably, but I like to look at it in a 'glass half full' scenario, or in my case 1/4 full.

John laid out a five day per week program that includes 1 long day followed by an easy recovery day and 3 other days of running 3-5 miles. The weekly long run started off at 5 miles and increased very gradually over 18 weeks till I built my distance up to the 13 mile half marathon distance. Walking has been eliminated from the program I had been following. After about 8 weeks of base building, the program started to work in some speed work sessions, including Tempo Runs, Fartlek and 1,000 meter intervals. Three weeks before the marathon, we start to taper off the weekly distance and the length of the weekly long runs.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Best of Christmas Presents

Met with cardiologist this morning for evaluation of treatment plan. Discussed a wide variety of subjects including my hopes to run half marathon in Cleveland this coming May and full marathon somewhere in the fall. Doc was thrilled with my progress over last few months and is totally on board with a stepped up training program. When he told me my cholesterol had dropped to 123, I thought he was referring to my bad (LDL) cholesterol. When he informed me that it was my total cholesterol I was so excited I almost started crying. Five months ago I couldn't run a hundred yards without having to stop to rest, the doctors at the Cleveland Clinic felt that bypass surgery was my best option, but at the suggestion of my friend Dr. Cliff Packer, I checked out some life style changes and adopted a program developed by Dr. Dean Ornish who had a lot of documented success in treating heart disease with diet and exercise. It was a radical program. Thirty minutes of exercise daily and the "Eat More, Weigh Less" diet that eliminated all animal products from the diet with the exception of fat free milk and egg whites (got to get the protein from somewhere). Two months of walking 3-4 miles every day turned into gradually working in some jogging, which turned into running. The diet has evolved into a little less radical one that allows fish twice a week and a lean steak dinner once a month.

A concern that I had was that when I started the diet, the weight was just melting away but has remained steady for the past two months despite an increased intensity in training. According to common BMI charts, I am considered about 10 pounds overweight for my height. The doctor wasn't too concerned with the weight and made a reference to Lebron James who would be considered obese with his weight of 275 pounds. He told me that fitness was a better measurement stick than the scale.

I was hoping that he would start lowering the dosage on my some of my medications. I expressed concerns over possible liver damage from Lipitor, but he insisted those risks were miniscule and the benefits far outweighed the risks. He didn't want to change the dosage on my beta blocker either. He said it would help keep my heart rate down while exercising.

I had some concerns about the diet being so low in fat and protein. Since I started the Ornish program we read the labels on everything and have been avoiding anything with any fat at all, especially saturated fats. I love peanut butter but it has a very high amount of fat, but also has lots of protein. He told me it was a good fat and assured me that it would be ok and encouraged me to eat it, especially in the morning.

Since my last posting, I ran one more race (a 3 miler on a flat course) and finally beat Lexi. In our previous races, we ran together for most of the race then she would beat me at the finish with a good kick. In the "Jingle Bell Run", she started getting stomach cramps at about the half way point. There was a guy I knew who was running with his young son just behind us, so I felt it was safe to leave her. When I crossed the finish line at 30:30 my wife and daughter greeted me with a panicked "Where's your grand daughter". After about 30 seconds she came into view so I was off the hook.

Last Sunday, I met with Marla Swinggy of Ohio Sport and Fitness magazine. When I was on the Cleveland Marathon website, I noticed an article that they were looking for everyday athletes to feature in upcoming editions. I sent them a short story of my quest and was selected as one of their six runners who will be running in either their first marathon or half marathon. She met with four of us to take pictures and videos and do interviews with us. One of the benefits of being featured is that we will get a fitness test from an acclaimed exercise physiologist who will evaluate each of our fitness levels and design a custom training plan for each of us to get us ready for our marathons.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Back in to the racing circuit

Competed (or should I say Completed") in four races so far. The first race was a 5k that I focused on heart rate. Goal was to keep heart rate between 85% and 93% of max. Took a walk break every time HR would reach 93% and would walk it down to 85% (about 30 seconds). All told, I think there were about five or six total breaks. Even though my focus was on HR, I was hoping to run under 33 minutes. Needless to say, I was very happy with the 32:24 time. Had lots of family on hand to run with; grand daughter Lexi, grand nephew Gavin, son in law Brad, niece Lizzie and cousin Bobby. I think everyone was afraid I was going to croak and didn't want to miss the excitement.

Second race was the Ichabod 1 Mile. With the shorter distance, my goal was to run the whole race without stopping to walk. The family deserted me this time, but I still had my friend Jenny Romano to run with. It worked out great because we are both about the same level. I maintained a 92-93% heart rate throughout the race and with about 200 yards to go, Jenny encouraged me to pick up the pace for the stretch. Had enough left in the tank for a good kick and crossed the finish line at 9:44 (was hoping for 9:33) and pushed the heart rate up to 98% of max. Although I didn't hit my 9:33 goal, I was pleased with the run because I made it the whole distance without stopping to walk.

Tom's Reindeer Run: Laurel, MD Since last race, I had been gradually building up my endurance and didn't want to go a whole month in between races, so while visiting my sister for Thanksgiving, I found a 5K in Laurel, MD. Ran with grand-daughter Lexi and told her before the pace that I wanted to go out slow (about 10:00 per mile pace) for the first two miles and leave something in the tank for the last 1.1 mile. Should have checked out this course ahead of time because it started off with the first half mile almost all down hill. Reached the 1 mile mark at 9:05 and the two mile mark at 18:55. Way faster than I wanted and with the last half of mile two being a long steep incline, I was exhausted. I did make it to the mile 2 mark without stopping to walk so I was pleased with that. Required 3 walk breaks during the last mile and finished at 33:18 (almost a minute slower than my first 5k)

12th Annual Lakewood Reindeer 5k: It was a sunny but cold Saturday but excellent running weather for December. Earlier in the week I had a training run that started with a non stop run of 2.4 miles. I was hopeful of going at least 2.75 miles so that I would be on target to complete a full 5k in the final race of the year next week. Again had my trusty Lexi to run with me and just before the two mile mark I could tell she was struggling. Her breathing was labored and she asked if we could walk. I encouraged her to breath deep and fight through it. When we reached the 2.5 mile mark, I felt I could make it all the way to the finish line. Lexi was able to recover from her difficulty and with about 100 yards to go I gave her the green light for a final push. It was too soon for me to sprint so she was able to pass about 10 runners and put about 25 yards between us. With 50 yards to go, I kicked it in and was able to cross the finish line 2 seconds behind her with a PR of 32:19. Although the PR was nice, I was most pleased with the consistent heart rate. Heart rate stayed at 88% for almost the entire race and my mile splits were pretty consistent too with 10:02, 10:22 and 10:37 splits.