Week 88 – Damn you to hell big data

 

I’ve been not losing weight recently. And I, as is tradition, invented many interesting theories about my weight loss. Many interesting theories that explained how the Laws of Thermodynamics and my weight problems were fundamentally unrelated.

Those guys who invent fanciful fusion machines were all people who had weight problems. The laws of physics don’t apply to how people gain or lose weight and therefore certainly don’t apply to how Fusion may work. If Cold Fusion is possible, then losing weight unconstrained by Thermodynamics should be possible…

Except. Except. Except – Fusion is not possible.

Here you can see how many steps I took as measured by my new iPhone 6+

 

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Here you can see my weight more or less track my activity.

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As my activity increases, my weight drops and as my activity decreases my weight increases.

Big Data once again bursts my delusional bubble.

What to do… What to do?

No more big data. Enough already. I want my delusions.

Week 86: The need for sleep

The last two weeks have been brutal. Back-to-back 2:30 hour runs. Mind you my coach was wondering if I could turn one of those into a 3:30 run. My personal life was like nooooo…

One of the big things I did this week was run on a trail. And man running on a trail in the middle of the blistering hot day is hard.

First of all your speed is noticeably slower when you are running on loose gravel than when running on cement.

Secondly, you’re going slower because of your of fear of slipping.

Thirdly, you have this feeling that if I die here, will anyone know or care and that makes you even more cautious..

I’ve stopped updating my weight. Nothing really nefarious going on. Just I haven’t been losing weight. And to be honest, not really trying anymore. With the Athens Marathon only a month away, the weight is what it is. Losing weight now would be a mistake. Need to make sure I don’t gain any.

Booze and Trainning

Last weekend I got drunk celebrating my tenth year wedding anniversary. And the next day the training was rough… Very rough. I once again had to remember that I am not 20…

 

Week 86 – 4:45 marathon (over two days)

Training for a marathon is brutal. Trying to set a new PR for a marathon reminds me of the following quotation from the Shepherd Boy by the Brother’s Grimm:

But nobody could, and the king said, “The third question is, How many seconds does eternity have?”

The little shepherd boy said, “The Diamond Mountain is in Lower Pomerania, and it takes an hour to climb it, an hour to go around it, and an hour to go down into it. Every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak on it, and when the entire mountain is chiseled away, the first second of eternity will have passed.”

 

The key to setting a new PR isn’t to go fast, it’s to go consistently faster over a long time. Your job is to chisel a tiny bit of time over every mile. And that is hard. Because in the beginning you need to go slower than you want and in the end you need to go faster than you want. Go too fast to start, and you have nothing left in the end, go too slow at the start and you can’t cover enough distance fast enough to end.

This balancing act is something I have yet to master. I look more like the amateur that sprints the first two miles, only to discover that there are 24 more to go. My closing times aren’t bad they are ghastly. And every time it’s because I came out way too strong in the beginning …

Part of it … I know this is heresy, may have been that I was simply not fit enough. A combination of extra body weight, and a lack of depth of training meant that I had enough strength to do a half marathon, but was finished around mile 15. All that was left between mile 15 and 26 was survival …

This is not for the faint of heart. This setting of new PR’s.

And therefore it is encouraging that over the last two days, I was able to finish a full marathon in 4:45 minutes. Obviously it’s much easier to take a 24 hour break between mile 14 and mile 15 than continue running, but this is a good indicator.

Another strong indicator is my best times for my long runs are all this year and are all a full minute faster than  last year.

Unlike last year, though, I refuse to believe anything is in the bag. I refuse to sign the rights to my memoirs “How I did the Athens Marathon in under 5h42 minutes” until after I do it.

Hubris, the gods like to punish. And I refuse to be proud…

Week 85 – Rest

Spend enough time reading about the key to training and you’ll read about Rest.

How rest is important.

How it’s all about rest.

Rest, rest I tell you.

The key to getting into peak fitness is recovery.

Rest.

When you start training the idea that you would need to be told to stop is … well absurd. After all my second post was about how thankful I was for a rest day.

This past week I have been supposed to be resting. Unfortunately because of a rather nasty data corruption bug, I have been unable to sleep. And by the end of the week I was exhausted. I could barely move. And I told my coach who said:

You need to rest. You are not going swimming today, tomorrow’s workout is being reduced you need to rest and be ready for the back-to-back long runs.

So I went to sleep for 9 hours, and was feeling great, and told my coach that I was feeling fine, and he said:

All the same, it’s important to be recovered after your “recovery week” and before heading into this next block of training. Erring on the side of some extra rest will allow you to come back strong for the end of this week’s long runs.

And then I realized I was reading one of those articles… and I was that athlete who didn’t want to rest, because well exercise is sooooooooo much more fun…

Two years into training … and I am a different person. And damn resting is booooooooooooooring.

My heart bleeds for Lake Tahoe, Residents and Triathletes

There was a wild fire in lake tahoe that resulted in the cancellation of the Half Ironman.

My heart bleeds for the trees that are probably getting destroyed because of a century of excessive fire fighting, and for people’s homes that are at risk and for the area that is getting hurt…

And as a triathlete, my heart bleeds for those who trained for this race and it was their first half. Working that hard for that long only to have it go up in smoke is painful.

For my scoffers

Four years ago, a doctor looked at me and scoffed when I suggested that I might be able to get my health under control

Two years ago, I scoffed at myself that I could get my weight below 200 and keep it there.

Kostadis 2 – Scoffers 0

Oh okay, the scoffers do get 1 point - I didn’t do the Athens Marathon in under 5 hours.

Week 80 – Long sleep and updates

First updates… unfortunately life has once again intervened pushing out my ironman, AGAIN! That’s okay. Opportunity to do more half-ironmen. And remember the purpose isn’t to get to Ithaka, the point is to get there when you have accumulated the wisdom and experiences of a lifetime.

One of the indirect consequences of this inability to get an Ironman done, is for me to refocus my thinking on whether my long term 20 year goal should be to finish 150 marathons… Marathons have the nice property that they require less training and less equipment …

On Friday (Aug 8, 2014), I went for my first long run after my return from Greece.

And I learned something that it is, indeed, possible to go running and fall asleep while running.

This was shocking.

I had no idea this was possible. To be so sleepy that you find yourself wanting to just curl up on the ground and sleep… Worse you’re so sleepy that you can’t see straight or run straight.

I figured that if you’re that sleepy you shouldn’t be able to run period.

Maybe you aren’t … Maybe it was a sick dream.

The first three miles were surreal. My running partner,

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basically dragged me around the neighborhood.

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Figuring my diminished capacity was unsafe with my dog, I decided to finish the run solo.

Unfortunately, that’s when I discovered the dry heaves.

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Turns out when you are that sleepy you can only go so fast. Every time I tried to pick up the pace I stopped on the side and executed the dry heave maneuver. Fortunately it was late at night and no one saw that. Really.

Because I am that obsessive triathlete, instead of just stopping, I pushed on some more.

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The problem then was that the slower pace was just simply not comfortable. And yes I managed to re-tweak my calf! Ice-packs here I come!

Finally reaching my house, took a shower and crawled into bed. I do not remember the part about crawling into bed. I am just certain it happened because I woke up there.

My wife is an amazing tolerant person.

 

 

 

Week 79 – Scaring the locals edition

For my second long run in Santorini, I decided to tackle a long standing ambition of mine to run around the airport and back to my house.

Why?

Because it was there.

And so I set off.

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The route is pretty similar to the route from last week’s run to Monolithos, except that I don’t turn down to the beach but instead continue around the airport.

What I had not realized was the elevation profile of this run.

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Notice that long painful climb. Notice that drop in pace. While I was running, I felt like I was stuck in some kind of relentless endless climb. I thought I was insane.

I was.

Not for thinking that this was a long relentless climb, but because I was insane enough to do it.

My cousin who is studying Sports Science, when she heard what I did – derisively told me – you shouldn’t combine mileage and climbing… Yeah. Useful feedback, not so much half way through a run.

Because I anticipated an epic disaster, I brought two water bottles and picked my route such that there were plenty of places I could refill if I had cash.

The first refill occurred at a bakery at the turn from the airport to Kamari

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I run into the bakery wearing sunglasses, running shoes and go straight to the water cooler and buy myself a powerade wearing my vineman half-ironman t-shirt.

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The Albanian (?) woman behind the counter was a little bit taken a-back. This was not her usual customer. This store is somewhat out-of-the way and you need to drive to the store. Not exactly the kind of place that gets foot traffic. And definitely not the kind of place that gets runner traffic.

She looked at me and asked politely: Do I speak Greek? I think this was her way of asking: Are you some kind of insane Xenos? I turned to her, spoke in Greece and then quickly paid for my powerade. She smiled, and wished me luck.

I don’t think I convinced her I wasn’t some kind of insane Xenos. Maybe she decided I was the worst kind of Xenos – an Ellino-Amerikanos!

My next pit stop was a fortuitous coincidence. An old friend of the family has a flower shop. She was across the street at a house pictured below…

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She was sitting with some friends eating a snack. She called for me to come by, and I ran up to say hi. There she offered me a variety of snacks to – which before I could say no to – a gentleman told her to be quiet because well she was a woman and didn’t know what athletes required. He then proceeded to give me a tomato drenched in olive oil and garlic.

And before I could say no, this thing was in my mouth. And then I started running fast in the opposite direction.

And the treat was super tasty. But unfortunately tomato is acidic and garlic makes me fart. For the next little while I was farting and experience burning sensations down my throat… This made the run more … interesting I suppose.

As I headed back down into Kamari, I was running short of liquid having drank the two water bottles I started with and the powerade I purchased. Desperate for one more powerade I turned into a Gyros joint – Minas Peinas ..

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This is the kind of dive I love to eat at. This place has got good food, that has more fat and grease than is healthy even in our newly found fat is good universe.

I turn into the place, and run straight past the smokers and the serious eaters wearing my vineman jersey and asked for a bottle of water. The lady behind the counter looking like she’s had smoked more cigarettes in her life than she should have, smiles and points me to the cooler. Paying, I start to run out, feeling annoyed that there was no powerade. And then I remember, the juice of champions – Coke! And I turn right around a buy a can of coke and pour it into my water bottle. At that point in time the lady had the: A crazy Xenos has come into my store. This time I decided to not confuse the issue and speak in English.

As I ran out, I saw a foreign couple smile. They knew what I was doing :-)

A little bit more running to make the run a full 2:30. And yes the Coke made everything better. Except for my water bottle that still is stubbornly dirty. Apparently Coke + powerade + Num doesn’t clean that easy.

After 2:21 minutes, I made it home. Safely.

My little run was supposed to be fun a little jaunt, and yet the interaction with the people on the way made it feel a little bit more memorable than it had any right to be.

 

Week 78: Crushing bad runs

After finishing my first half-Ironman, whose race report is conspicuously missing, there was a week long lull. After the week long recover, my coach sent me running.

After all there is some unfinished business between me and a certain Marathon in Greece.

This week I was vacationing in Santorini. Often thought of as an exotic isle, the reality for me, is that it’s where I am from. Kind of like people from Hawaii, Santorini is just the place I go to, not some magical mysterious wonderful place.

And yet Santorini is that place.

Santorini is also the place where I had the most miserable long run experience of my life.

While getting ready for my first ever Marathon, training using the Hal Higdon method, I ran a 14 mile run that turned messy.

It all started with hanging out with some friends that were bragging about how fast they went.

And since I had no coach, but a spreadsheet, I decided that I too would go as fast as they had.

Let me observe that they were thinner than I was …

Let me observe that they had a much better fitness base than I did…

Let me observe that the route was one I had never done before.

The net outcome was calamitous. I ended up overheating, getting dehydrated,, drinking too much water to compensate and puking.

When I came back from my run, I collapsed in my parents yard: exhausted, dehydrated and ashen. Sitting down in front of me was some random older woman. I had no clue who she was. The poor woman saw my ashen coloured face and asked: Are you okay.

And I responded: Tin poutsisame.

Go ask your Greek friends for a translation. This is a PG rated English speaking blog.

Turns out the woman was my sister’s soon to be mother-in-law.

Yup, the first words to my sister’s mother-in-law were… colourful.

Two years later, many pounds lighter, much fitter, I decided to give that route another go.

Armed with an understanding of how to use heart-rate monitors, and a better appreciation of dealing with the heat, I was able to complete the run without getting hurt.

Only downside, that epic 14 mile run was only 9 miles long.

Here’s the route in relation to the whole island: 2014-08-09_1947

Here’s the route zoomed in.

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What the straight lines don’t convey is the very steep rollers. The total elevation gain isn’t that large, only 338 feet, but there are are some brutally steep climbs. I am choosing to not show my speed over those climbs. I do believe I saw a snail zoom past but I may have been confused. 2014-08-09_1949

 

Just for comparison purposes the Athens marathon had an elevation gain of 900 feet …