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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.

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