And Then I Ran… | Falmouth Road Race

I lost 107 lbs. I trained for 140 miles. I raised $2,520 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (so far). I spent one year of my life turning around my health and fitness. I re-learned how to think about nutrition and what I put in my mouth. I got in tune with my body. I gave it my all. And then I ran… 

All I can say is…wow. What an experience! No wonder so many people want to run the Falmouth Road Race! I had heard that it was the second most popular race in New England, the most desirable race in the country, etc…but I had no idea what an incredible
experience it would be! As you can see from the Runkeeper screenshot above (check out my Runkeeper profile and road race activity), I got the time I was shooting for! Runkeeper reported 1:10:13 and my “unofficial” chip time was 1:10:04.

For the non-runners out there – there are two different “times” many timed races will report – “Gun Time” and “Chip Time” (sometimes called “Net Time”). Gun Time is
the time from when the gun goes off and the race starts to when you cross the finish line. Chip Time (or Net Time) is the time from when you actually cross the starting line to when you cross the finish.  You may think these times would be the same, but if you’re in a large race you might actually cross the starting line one, two, five or even ten+ minutes after the gun goes off. Yesterday in the Falmouth Road Race I didn’t cross the starting line until more than 20 minutes after the gun went off. They call it “Chip Time” because it’s the time when your timing chip crosses the start and finish. They call it “Net Time” because it’s the gun time minus the time it takes for you to get to the starting line (in this case, “Net” is a math term).

In terms of performance and results – Yes, I got the time I wanted. I was pretty steady in my pace and stayed under 9:46 per mile the entire race. Once I got up the big hill in Falmouth Heights (the last challenge where lots of runners drop) I turned it on and zipped to the end on a mission. I felt great, due I’m sure in part to a number of things including proper sleep the night before, being hydrated, good pre-race nutrition, my intra-workout drink during the race and a clear head with a positive attitude. Know what helped? It was like I was the only person out there. Nobody else mattered. I was doing my thing and the other 12,799 people were just…there. People zipped ahead of me early on and I smiled to myself thinking “I’ll see you around mile 5” and I passed people walking from mile 3 onward thinking “I was you during the Finish at the 50 10K”. I learned a lot and it paid off!

There are two things I want to put out there for those of you who don’t know: 1. I ran this race as a part of Team Lanzoni – the 99 Restaurants team. Team Lanzoni is a part of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute running program. 2. I am a Freemason, and so was my grandfather Peter. What do these two things have in common?
Last July my grandfather passed away. During his battle with cancer, he was taken care of in the Dana-Farber center at Faulkner in Boston. They took great care of him, were incredibly compassionate, and were there for my family when we needed them. They took the time to make sure they did everything they could and to make sure we were OK when we ran out of options. I wanted to be able to do something for them – help to give someone else a fighting chance. I ran this race for him, and I carried him with me the whole 7.4 miles (or maybe it was him that carried me).

Speaking of Team Lanzoni…
One of the guys in corral 5 with me was an interesting character. His name is Eric Parent, otherwise known as TheSmoothBear

This guy is a part of Team Lanzoni too. He’s got a vlog (video blog, check it out here) where (among other things) he chronicles his running thing. I checked out some of his videos and he’s pretty entertaining. In one of his videos RFTF: Orange Is The New Black he literally talks about the Netflix show OITNB while running. I mean, I know some runners can just have a conversation like its no big deal while they cruise along, but I guess I was kind of expecting that from those toothpicks in running shoes…TheSmoothBear (no offense buddy) is a big dude, not your typical running toothpick, so I was surprised. I know I sure as hell can’t have a conversation like that while running, so kudos to you on that! As far as content – he just kinda tells it like it is, which I like. It’s always good to see a big guy (read beasty, not fat) rockin’ out in fitness world, so more kudos to you on that! Keep on keepin’ on. Hopefully I see this guy again in next year’s Falmouth Road Race. Be sure to check out his vlog and his Facebook – let him know Darrell sent you from “So THIS Is Fitness…”!

But Perhaps The Best Part Of Yesterday…

We may not have run next to each other, but being out there with my fiancee Megan was great! She’s been right there next to me since day 1 of P90X when this whole thing started, and it was a great feeling to be out there with her for our biggest challenge yet. I’m so proud of her and how far she’s come. Despite knee issues (and no uber-knee brace like I have) and a history of debilitating cramps every time we run she achieved her best pace to date and smashed the time she expected to get, coming in at 1:21:48. Sounds like she plans on being a part of Team Lanzoni with me next year for this race, and in the more immediate future…hopefully she’ll be a part of my next undertaking…more on that soon.

Oh, By The Way:
My Playlist did me a lot of good. I find it ironic that Chelsea Dagger never came on through the whole run, but I did have Lift Me Up on for that last hill climb in Falmouth Heights, and let me tell you it felt pretty badass climbing that hill and flying to the finish rockin’ out to that.

So, Overall?
The Falmouth Road Race was an incredible experience, I performed better than I could’ve expected, felt great and I’m looking forward to next year where hopefully I’ll get a lower number and a better corral.
Just think – if I can do this, anyone can do it. Get out there and get to it.

Running on Rocket Fuel – Anatomy of a Power Song

So you’re running along, you’re doggin’ it, life sucks, and all of a sudden a song comes on that just hits you the right way. Your stride picks up, your breathing straightens out, there’s a bounce in your step and you’re running like you just got a power-up in a video game. Ladies and gentlemen – your playlist just gave you a Power Song! We’re back in this thing!


The Falmouth Road Race is 8 days away
and I’m going on my last long run pre-race today…probably a 5 or 6 miler. I’m going through my music to make sure my playlist is up to date (there will be a playlist update article soon) and the thought struck me that there might be some people out there that don’t know what a Power Song is. Power Songs are like the secret weapon to success in the running / workout world (as far as I’m concerned)! I mean, aside from proper nutrition, stretching and hydration of course.

I searched the internet and I really couldn’t find much about “Power Songs”, which was disappointing. So, I suppose we’ll start with the obvious question…

What IS a Power Song?

A power song pumps. you. UP. You can be slowing down, losing steam, feeling like you want to stop – it’s just TOO much…and then a Power Song comes on and you feel recharged. Refueled. Ready to take ON THE WORLD. A Power Song doesn’t just bring you a second wind – it brings you a HURRICANE. If you’re already cruising along? You cruise along harder. Faster. Stronger. Each step is effortless. Each rep is lighter than the last. A power song is like Super Mario’s Invincibility Star. Every time a power song comes on I feel as amped up as the Powerthirst video, or the guy in the Old Spice commercials.

Seriously, it’s tough to put a hard definition on it, but basically a Power Song is like a turbo-shot of GO. And it will get you through the worst parts of your workout or run like you just started out and will leave you feeling fresh as a daisy. The beat is perfect, you sync up just right, you get your stride right, you get pumped up and super-motivated and you just go. It’s a great feeling. So, naturally, you’d like to know how to find the most awesome power song out there right?

You can’t.

Sorry, Charlie. That’s not how it works. You can’t force a Power Song – you can’t choose it. It chooses you. I know, it sounds strange, but it’s true…it just happens. You’ll be listening to the radio and just start jamming out, feeling everything I just talked about. You can be at the gym and it comes on. You might even have thrown one in your own playlist and not even have realized it. But when it hits you, you’ll know. It can be from any genre, it can be any length. It can literally be ANY song…and it’s different for everyone. SOMEHOW, one of my fiancee’s power songs is 160 BPM – Selena Gomez – Come And Get It. I can’t understand it. But it works for her. That’s just how it is. My FAVORITE power song right now is 154 BPM – The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger. Every single time I hear that song I get amped up and want to run.

That doesn’t always happen.

There are some songs that I love that WERE Power Songs but just don’t get me as amped up as they used to. They’re still great to run to and work well on my playlist, but they somehow just aren’t Power Songs anymore. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it’s just a regular running song. Go figure. While I do try to load myself up with songs that have Power Song potential…

You can’t just make a playlist entirely of power songs

Really, it won’t end well. Either you’ll stop getting amped up to many of them, as happened to me, or EVEN WORSE – you’ll gas yourself (run yourself out of gas). The whole point of a Power Song is that it amps you up and puts you into overdrive…but you can’t run like that for your entire run! Maybe if you’re on a 5K you can, but anything more than that you’ll regret it. 

So, keep your ears open and give a listen – you might be surprised what songs you find yourself air-drumming or dancing in the car to. When you feel that adrenaline hit – write it down or Shazaam it and put it in your playlist! Give it a go, and if it works out as well as you think, congratulations – you just permanently increased your playlist by 1. And climbed a mountain later on.

Why Workouts Fail #2 – The Scale

I tried incredibly hard – probably WAY harder than I should have – to come up with a catchy title for this article…but when it comes right down to it…it’s really simple. The Scale – the common bathroom scale – is a major reason why workouts fail.

Yeah, you heard me right. The Scale is a problem. There are a few reasons why, but The Scale is Public Enemy No. 1 in workout world. The Scale contributes in a HUGE way to what I’m calling “Perceived Lack of Results”. “PLOR” is why an incredible number of people get frustrated and just give up.  The scale can make you think you’re on top of the world or a complete and total failure.

It’s all. About. The Scale.

The Scale Doesn’t Lie – 

As a matter of fact, The Scale is incredibly honest. Too honest. The Scale doesn’t know how to lie – It knows how to do one thing: Tell you exactly what you weigh. 

Isn’t that the point?

Yes and no. The Scale will tell you what you weigh, but the problem is there are a lot of factors that play into how much, exactly, you weigh RIGHT NOW. How much you weigh over time. Your weight loss or gain trends. Stress, sodium intake, hydration (or lack thereof), sweating, fat loss/gain and muscle loss/gain all affect what you weigh. And don’t forget – the food you actually eat throughout the day weighs something too! All of these things can play into a false sense of where you’re at when you step onto the scale.

So far I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, even though it may not seem like it. Let’s take it one bite at a time (hah, I made a funny).

Stress – 
Being under high levels of stress, which isn’t uncommon these days, can lead to weight gain (or to the scale staying the same – we’ll come back to that) as discussed in this article on WebMD, this article on MedicineNet, and this post on Health. I’m taking away three distinct factors from all these (and more) discussions about stress and weight gain –

1. When you’re stressed your body enters a primal “fight or flight” mode and generates a number of hormones, including Cortisol. Cortisol serves to facilitate fat and carbohydrate metabolism, but it also triggers insulin release to help regulate blood sugar. The end result is YOU craving more high-carb high-sugar foods. Helloooooo tub-o-ice cream.

2. Cortisol, a result of stress, causes your body to store fat deep in the abdominal area. This not only produces an INCREDIBLY attractive gut-like appearance in the belly, but it’s also the kind of fat store that can lead to health issues.

3. When you’re stressed there’s lots of nervous energy that needs to be expended – your body and mind have to find a comforting activity. Many times, eating becomes that comforting activity and, HOW CONVENIENT – you can go ahead and nom on that high-sugar high-carb stuff you’re craving as a result of cortisol release. Perfect.

Sodium Intake, Hydration / De-hydration and sweating-

Where does all that salt come from?

The ideal daily sodium intake is around 2,300 mg. I don’t know if you’ve looked at sodium levels in some of the foods you eat, but it can be INCREDIBLY difficult to keep sodium levels low…especially if you eat out at all. The chart to the right shows you where all the salt in your food comes from – if you look at it you’ll see why the more “processed” food you eat, and the more “processed” it is, the more salt you can’t help but take in. Increased sodium levels make you retain water (don’t believe me? Google it). Retaining water makes you weigh more – water has weight, right? Totally makes sense. If you decide you’re gonna stop drinking water and get pretty dehydrated – yeah, the scale is probably going to look a little bit better, but you’ll be disappointed next week/month when you weigh in and you’re hydrated differently than the last time.

And just like taking in or not taking in enough water can affect your weight – you’re obviously going to weigh less after you’ve just gotten done sweating out a bunch of water. In my experience, I can sweat out 1-2 lbs of water (maybe even more) during a super-intense workout (1+ hours), yours may vary, but that IS a significant amount of weight just from sweating. Your body will replenish it when you have that post-workout “oh-my-god-I’m-dying-of-thirst” water guzzle, so this is an even more temporary fluctuation than the others, but it is a weight fluctuation just the same.

Food Weighs Something – 
This one’s quick, easy and obvious – the food you eat weighs something. If you weigh yourself before you eat in the morning you will weigh less than if you weighed yourself after eating. Every time. There is no food out there that makes you lighter after you eat it (and if there is, tell me!). 

And this leaves me with my favorite point to make, and the one that, I think, really brings this whole article together:

No, this is not just some kind of corny line – volume-wise, muscle weighs more than fat. Think of it like a pound of feathers and a pound of gold – it’s gonna take a super-huge pile of feathers to weigh a pound – that pile is going to take up a lot of space. The same weight of gold is small, sleek and in a tight tiny package. Same goes for muscle and fat. Fat is less dense than muscle, thus 5 lbs of fat takes up a lot more real estate than muscle.

Let’s put it another way that’s easier to understand:

  Starting to get the picture?

Muscle is tighter and denser than fat – same weight, smaller package. If the scale doesn’t move, or barely moves, it’s likely because you’re building muscle while at the same time burning fat. The more muscle you have in your body the more calories you’ll burn – your body has to burn calories to feed all the muscle on your body.  That’s a good thing. Don’t be afraid of building muscle.

No. Not necessarily.  Wasn’t the goal to burn fat? Get healthy? Get fit? Yes, you’ll lose some weight, but it’s going  to come to a point where you stop losing weight so rapidly. You might even stay the same for a while. This could be a true plateau or it could just be some muscle gain (I’ll cover true plateaus in another article), but either one can be overcome. I lost 107 lbs so far – it did not steadily come off 5 – 10 lbs per week. There were weeks I didn’t lose weight. There were weeks I GAINED a little. You have to think LONG TERM with your weight-loss and fitness goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your body. Be confident in what you’re doing and believe in yourself. If you get so frustrated that you want to smash the scale and throw it out the window…well…I’ll pretend I didn’t see you do it.

So, what? I can’t trust The Scale?

Like I said – The Scale will ALWAYS tell you exactly what you weigh…at that moment…with no regard for muscle vs. fat, hydration, stress, etc. Weigh yourself at your own risk. Don’t weigh yourself more than once a week – definitely not daily. The number The Scale tells you is NOT the only number in the world that matters. Trust other measurement methods. How do you FEEL? How do you LOOK? Are your clothes fitting looser? Can you tighten your belt more? Do you see more muscle definition when you flex? Has your body fat % gone down? Don’t let the number The Scale tells you skew the image you see in the mirror.

When you start a program and take your “before” pictures, whip out a measuring tape and get your measurements – neck, chest, waist, hips, thighs, biceps, calves, etc. You’ll be glad you did, because THOSE are the measurements that count. If those are changing in a positive direction, the weight will follow. Believe in yourself and stay positive – don’t let The Scale make you think you’re failing.

Why Workouts Fail #1 – The Napoleon Complex

Napoleon Bonaparte

So I got to thinking about why workouts fail – ultimately, why people don’t work out. I was one of those guys for a long LONG time. I just…didn’t work out. I’d go to the gym with my Delta Chi brothers and do…kind of a workout. In the end I’d only go a couple of times a month. I’d try going on my own since there was a gym conveniently close to my dorm…didn’t stick with it. Obviously there’s a LOT of reasons people don’t work out. Many of these reasons are completely lame and not an excuse…but some are actually pretty justifiable. My workout for today got me thinking about this…and about one reason in particular – the Napoleon complex.

That’s him, right at the top of this post – Napoleon Bonaparte. I linked to Wikipedia for those of you who weren’t in school that day, but the short version is, he was short and didn’t like it. Wikipedia sums it up nicely:

(A Napoleon complex) is characterized by overly-aggressive or domineering social behaviour, and carries the implication that such behaviour is compensatory for the subjects’ stature. The term is also used more generally to describe people who are driven by a perceived handicap to overcompensate in other aspects of their lives.

 See that part I made bold? There’s the workout problem right there. I think nearly every time I’ve gone to the gym I’ve seen other people working out, and I feel like as soon as I start putting weight on the bar I’m going to be judged. And I sit there, with what I feel like is dinky weight, feeling like everyone’s looking at me like…

Seriously, Bro. Do you even lift?

At that point many people just kinda…leave.

“Whoops! I forgot about an appointment!”

“Crap! I totally midjudged my time, I’m late for work!”

However, it is at precisely this moment that people like me do something stupid. Because it is at precisely this moment that Joey Howyadoin shows up like he’s God’s gift to lifting and goes

“Hey Bro, you need a spot?”

OF COURSE! Because that was just my warm-up set. Let’s crank this up! Aaaaand on goes the weight. Next thing you know I’m putting myself in a really bad position where best case scenario I embarrass the ever-loving bejeezus out of myself and worst case I end up hurting myself. Why? Because everyone else in the place looks like they’re lifting this:

Over 1000 lbs on a barbell

and there I am with my two marshmallows on a straw. So the Napoleon complex kicks in and I try to go hard. Whoops…guess I’m not showing my face in the gym for…ever. It’s ok…my pals Mr. Couch, Tony the T.V. and Chester the Cheetah (Cheetos, anyone?) will comfort my ailing ego.

So what’s the moral of the story?

Don’t worry about what everyone else in the gym is doing. Don’t worry about that guy benching 400 lbs like its boring. Don’t worry about the people on Facebook posting pics of their one-handed handstand when all you seem to manage is somersaults. Worry about YOU. Because at the end of the day, what they did doesn’t matter in YOUR fitness world, and their mind-bending workout isn’t what’s building muscle on YOU. Or burning fat off YOUR body (even though watching them might make you feel worn out). Don’t be afraid to start with (what you think is) light weight. Don’t be afraid to take it easy the first time you do something. It’s good to feel out your abilities and test the water. If you do it right this will not be the last time you do this workout. You will have the chance to up your weights next time…when you have a better idea of what’s ACTUALLY a good idea.

During every dvd at-home workout program I do, the coach/leader/whatever basically says this same thing in different ways, but I think Tony Horton (creator of P90X) said it best:

Do your best and forget the rest!

The Trouble With Leg Day

So as I sit here, waiting for the basement workout space to free up, I’m reflecting that in less than a month I’m supposed to be running the Falmouth Road Race, the big race I’ve been working up to since March when I first started running, and I can only go for training runs about one day a week. Why? Leg Day. That’s why.

See, the trouble with Leg Day is…it’s deceptive. During, its miserable – stumbling to my water bottle after putting the weights down. After, my legs are Jell-O as I try to ascend Mt. Everest to take a shower. But after that…I’m fine! I feel great. Why not go for a run?

Then tomorrow happens.

Because you’re not going to be all that sore ON Leg Day. No, no. Tomorrow you’ll be sore. After you thought it was a good idea to add in a run, too. I have made this mistake, and I have learned.

Why is Leg Day so damn awful?

Just like any other workout, you’re not REALLY gonna feel it until the next day. So why does it ache SO much when you get there?

Leg Day seems to require the most recovery time of any workout I’ve done – not just strength training, but workouts period. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say its because they don’t get to rest unless you sit. Think about it – every day for 16 (or more) hours a day your legs cart you all over creation. Even when you’re not going anywhere, they’re still holding you up. But once a week, when that just wasn’t enough, we pound on them even harder in the spirit of fitness. During sets, they’re on fire. Between sets, they’re still on fire as you stumble to get water and write down your weights. It’s a relentless pounding. I usually have to wait until the second or even third day after a serious Leg Day workout to be able to go on a run. I’m sure there’s a more scientific “factual” answer, but…I did say I’m not a professional, right?

The trouble with Leg Day is…its frickin’ hard! That’s probably why so many people don’t do leg day, or don’t do it right. It’s also easy to hurt your back or knees on Leg Day (but that’s a topic for another blog post).

When all is said and done, the trouble with Leg Day is it’s a lot of hard work that knocks out your legs for a couple days. Nevertheless…

****UPDATE 7/18/13 1:35 pm****
A fitness friend tipped me off that apparently the whole “it doesn’t hurt till tomorrow” thing is a legitimate condition called Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.

 See, we’re learning together!