Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Michigan Vacation – or a week “off”

As promised: my recap of my week in Michigan as it relates to fitness and my personal goals and achievements, or, in this case, a couple short stories and a lot of excuses. We flew out Christmas Eve morning and flew back in on New Year’s Eve afternoon, then skipped down to San Clemente and returned to Los Angeles on Monday evening. So when I discuss my trip, it will include all of these locales, their varied weather and rough schedules.
Christmas Eve was a scheduled day off, and on my diet it was a cheat day. All cheat days start with a weigh in and a measurement of total body inches (ala Tim Ferris’ four hour body – bicep circumference R/L, thigh circumference R/L, waist at belly button, hips at widest) but since we had to take a cab to the airport at 6am, I was too rushed to measure, and since my body is an atomic clock, any weigh in before 9:30am is going to skew higher than true weight (don’t make me say it). Long story short, I didn’t weigh in or measure. So for those of you at home counting that’s 2 excuses and -1 fitness because of the cheat day.
I should mention that going to Michigan is an ordeal; the kind of ordeal where one could potentially eat themselves to death, or drown in cookies. I say potentially because I tried, and failed to do both.
Christmas day was another scheduled day off. Not on the schedule I was given, but I adapted it because I knew a workout would be nearly impossible to pull off as I was unfamiliar with the area and needed to depend on a local to advise me on routes / trails that made for good running, and all the locals I knew were busily preparing for Christmas dinner and didn’t have time to point me in the right direction. I should also mention that it is rural Michigan and there are no sidewalks and every road is a highway with a relatively high speed limit, so making my own way would be difficult if not dangerous, and being struck by a Michigander on Christmas is not my preferred method of celebrating.
I didn’t eat that much on Christmas, all things considered. I could have done worse, is what I’m trying to say. I ate so many cookies. I do not regret a single one. That said, I couldn’t even name half of the cookies I ate, I even ate one with peppermint frosting, which shows how out of control I was, because mint desserts are one of my least favorite things in the history of things. I even managed to get some color on my plate. One thing this diet I’ve been on has taught me is that you do indeed develop a taste for shitty foods like broccoli. I hate that I like broccoli, but I do. This was the one of the only opportunities I would have all week to eat broccoli. I picked it out of a salad and wrapped it in turkey and loved it.
The next day we went for a run. One nice thing about rural Michigan, or at least the area surrounding where we were staying (the greater Jackson area), is that some naturalists or nature enthusiasts have dug in and made some awesome stuff available to people to experience nature safely and with almost no restrictions. Our run was on a paved bike trail that was eleven miles from end to end with mile markers at every half mile. It was beyond flat (about 400 feet total over the nine miles I ran), and flanked by telephone pole pines on both sides.
At 40 degrees F it was the coldest run I had ever done, and I was a bit over dressed. I wore cotton gloves, a Nike skull cap, saucony running tights, basketball shorts (I’m uncharacteristically modest for a minimalist runner, from what I understand), a wind breaker, my dry max cold weather socks and Merrell Trail Gloves. I was also trying out some new energy chews by the same company that makes the stinger waffles (which I love). The windbreaker was the first to go as the one I have currently doesn’t do well with the whole breathability thing (cheap), and by the end I had ditched the gloves and skull cap as well. I had a little trouble with my stomach, but nothing I couldn’t manage, and the last three miles would have made a PR if I ran them in a 5k, so needless to say I was quite happy with the run.
The jacket didn’t breathe because it’s cheap. I got it for 20 bucks. It’s waterproof and wind proof, so I didn’t want it to breathe. I primarily run in southern California, so I don’t need much, but on days with rain, I wanted an option to keep me dry while not cooking me, or if it were a windy day, I could run without getting wind-chilled. So for the three weeks of inclement weather in my area per year, and the four runs I do per week, I couldn’t justify spending more than 20 bucks, and I think I did well for the money spent. If I move, or global cooling is a thing, I’ll drop more money on something more functional for increased use, but until then, I’m just fine.
The skull cap is tried and true, in fact better than my Nike dry-fit cap which toasts my brain and kills most runs, but works better at night when there isn’t direct sun light. This was my first run in gloves. Normally my hands get cold in the 50 degree LA winters, so I figured 30 degree Michigan would require some insulation. I just had some cheap-o cotton ones that worked well enough. I even used them to wipe sweat from my forehead.
My socks were my 2nd biggest purchase: Drymax Socks Cold Weather Running Crew Sock Socks,Red,XL. I ran in them once in LA before the trip and they were comfortable, if slightly hot, but as they’re cold weather socks, I expected them to perform more normally in cold weather (duh) and when they did I didn’t notice. I’m of the opinion where you only notice things that go wrong on runs, so the fact that I don’t have anything to say is good. I may have picked the wrong size, as they seem a little loose in the heel after the run, and when putting them on for a 2nd use without washing, which is something I do often because I’m bad at laundry and I am also quite cheap and if I can get multiple wearings out of something I like to abuse that privilege.
My biggest buy were my tights. I had never run in anything below the upper 40’s, and I knew that my 5” shorts weren’t going to cut it. I had a groupon for a specialty running shop and these tights were my favorite option in the shop as far as fit, function and look. They fit. They would keep my legs warm and dry and weren’t destroyed by excessive branding and logos (looking at you, New Balance). Since they are my first pair of tights, I can’t compare them to anything, but they seemed to be fine. I wear shorts over them because of what cold weather does to egos, and I was running with my girlfriend, her sister and their mom, so a little modesty would go a long way to insuring a continued healthy relationship with her family. Not that I’m saying tights / speedos are always weird, but I’m definitely not that guy. I’ll wear short shorts until the end of time, but there’s something weird about the testicleavage that personally is unappealing.
Score is now: Excuses (including front loaded to be paid off later) 4, fitness 0.
                This week’s schedule was stripped way down from normal to accommodate travel, vacation and allow for an increased amount of quality time with the gf’s family. For example, my normal schedule is this:
Mon – stretch, pushups, core.
Tues – short run
Weds – med run, pushups
Thur – short run, squat circuit (on step down weeks)
Fri – pushups, core
Sat – off
Sun – long run
Where “pushups” is whatever day I’m on the 100 pushups challenge (, core is either a workout I stole from Men’s fitness (3 sets 10 Thai planks, 3 sets 10 Thai crucifix, 4 sets 20 elbow-knee crunches, 5 sets 20 standing side knee lift to elbow, 5 sets 20 knee to imaginary skull, 3 min gorilla swing, 3 min axe swing side to side, 3 min axe swing straight to straight up) ( or one that I made up myself – circuit – 50 bicycle crunches, 15 leg lifts, 50 flutter kicks, 60s side planks, 60s front plank, and Squat Circuit is 10x deep squats, side squats, courtesy squats, one legged squats, squat jumps and elevated hip thrusts.
This week my schedule was as planned
Sat – Travel
Sun – rest
Mon – long run
Tues – pushups
Weds – short run
Thur – med run
Fri – short run/pushups
Sat – travel
Sun – long run
                But didn’t end up coming anywhere close. I nailed the long run, but skipped the pushups on Tuesday because our day was full. I was not a participant in most of the planning of activities, nor could I in good faith argue for *me* time as I had flown a good portion of the way across the country to do the exact opposite, so I just went with it and felt fine. I get some time to relax. Sue me. And Tuesday wasn’t a total loss, it was snowing and GF’s mom is of the adventurous spirit and took us to a preserve for a snow hike.
                It wasn’t the most athletically challenging thing I’ve done in my life. It was relatively flat for a hike and the loop was only 3 miles, but it was the novelty of outdoor activity in the snow that appealed to me. Normally I hide from crazy weather, but in this case I was heading towards it, and I finally understood snow shoeing and to a lesser extent cross country skiing (a much lesser extent). Weather is not something to duck. It’s a challenge to face. Hiking in the snow made me want to run in the snow, or at least less afraid to run in the rain. The hike was gorgeous, too. Big fat snowflakes fell the whole time and the swamps and ponds we passed had an ice layer on top that we couldn’t resist smashing with sticks or rocks. In short, it was rad and I hope to get a lot more winter sport experience under my belt (more along the lines of xterra, less X-games).
                Then we skipped town for a day so Wednesday was a wash. I had Kewpee, which started in Lima, Ohio as another burger joint you may have heard of (Wendy’s). Dave Thomas wanted to make it big time, the other guy didn’t, they split, and now Wendy’s is Wendy’s (which I continue to boycott), and Kewpee is amazingly delicious and cheap and simple and doesn’t charge for extra condiments and when you accidentally get frozen French fries and return them they replace them and apologize for the inconvenience, rather than crossing their arms and asking “What you want ME to do about it?”
                Got back on the road on Thursday with a 4-miler on the soft shoulders of the town we were staying in. The snow had mostly melted and become ice and the Merrell Trail Gloves aren’t even close to water proof, so the cold water came right in. The dry-max socks did their best, I’m sure, but they’re no match for snowmelt. I didn’t have any blisters though, so score one point for the dry max. Thursday night I got half drunk and did 10 ten second pushups. That sucked.
Update – excuses (counting Kewpee and Wafflehouse) 6, fitness: 3, drymax socks: 1.
                Friday was our last full day. I had 7 on the schedule, but I waited and waited and wasted the day away doing nothing so I only had time for 4. I didn’t even count them. I just went out and ran on the fields behind the house for forty minutes before stripping my shoes and socks off and sprinting 800 yards back to the house barefoot over ice (ouch) and having everyone in the house think I’m an idiot with a penchant for frostbite, but I wanted to say I did it, and got that accomplished.
                Saturday was another travel day. There was a dunkin donuts in the airport. I also had cookies in my carry-on. Leftovers that gf’s mom gave us so they wouldn’t tempt her. Excuses: 8. I had planned on running when I got home, as well but the time change messed up my internal clock (9) and we had to unpack and re-pack in a hurry to make it to San Clemente before the drunks got on the road (10) and we took a nap and woke up it was dark (11).  I was fairly well hungover and had not planned to run that day anyway, so I didn’t, planning instead to run Monday which didn’t happen because we had to leave town early to avoid the end of holiday weekend traffic (12) and on the way home stopped for chili’s which is honestly too heavy to eat before a 14 mile run (13) plus I could run after work on Tuesday when my groin wasn’t so inexplicably sore (14).
                But I did not run on Tuesday. Or I did, but it was only 4 miles. I didn’t see the sense in messing my schedule up two whole days when I could just forget the past and get back on track. I would have to run 2 six day weeks to make the 2 days up and with the Rose Bowl half 3 weeks away, I knew that could result in overtraining which could harm my performance so I decided to cast the missed workout aside. My next run will hurt a little bit more than it would have, but it’s my own fault, and as I learned at the SF marathon, it’s worth the hurt (I realize that is the hurt of training, not the hurt of skipping a workout, but I’ve cleverly repurposed it to suit my own needs).
                I weighed myself on Tuesday morning. Back up to 217 lbs and 24.0% body fat, so exactly where I started. I don’t regret a single cookie. We’ll notice the final score 14 excuses to 3 fitnesses and 1 for the drymax is equal to this 10 pound gain. Not scientifically, but funly.

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