Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Dexa Scan

I recently received an offer to get a DEXA Scan which measures body composition (muscle, fat, bone). As a tinkerer and a stat lover, I love anything that can give me more insight into how to make myself healthier or a faster runner. Also, as a fan of the show Scrubs, all I could think about was the episode where full scans were the bane of Dr. Cox's existence where they showed perfectly healthy people all their imperfections. Obviously not the same thing, it was a nice discussion I had with myself before realizing it wouldn't be a bad idea just to take a peak under the hood anyway.

So off to the Fitness Institute of Texas courtesy of the generosity of the DEXASCAN people I went. I knew the chances were low I would be happy with much of the results I would see, simply because I am fairly hard on myself.  However, this is the best shape I have been in since 2012 so I was glad I was doing it now than just about any other time in the recent past.

I was a bit surprised when I weighed in a good ten pounds more than I normally weigh, especially since I have taken off so much weight this year. But I hadn't run yet for the day and had eaten heartily over the Memorial Day weekend. Another nice surprise was that I was, barefoot, 6'1''. I have been 6'1'' since I was 18 but I know that guys often fib their height a bit. I often joke saying I am the only 6'1'' guy in existence as most who claim they are actually are 5'11.5'' and the ones who are 73 inches, skew upward in their tales. But here I was, no shrinkage or anything at all, (I was in the pool!) proving years of running hadn't shrunk my spine a bit.

The scan was quick and painless, as I simply lied down on some butcherblock paper as the arm of the machine gave me the once over. My pleasant and affable test giver, Rachel, peppered me with questions while we waited. When the results came back, I can say I was both unsurprised and also, as expected, a little disappointed. The biggie was body fat percentage. Mine was supposedly 24.8% which really gave me pause. But in our conversation, Rachel mentioned that if I weighed a bit less the percentage would go down as well, which I didn't think seemed to make sense because the weight alone shouldn't dictate the percentage of body fat. Perhaps I misunderstood her. (Or the scan works with some simple plugging in of weight as a number which makes it a little less exact than I thought.) Since, I already thought I weighed a bit less (and I came home and weighed myself on my own scale at 176) my guess is that it is closer to just under 20%. Still, egads.

That's actually fine. I have already made great strides towards losing fat and building muscle this year, even while not working specifically on that. You see, being a long distance runner and being all ripped do not go hand-in-hand. I remember a good friend of mine once saying he was surprised given al the running I do that I am not significantly more "cut." Well, I sorta eat what I want (in moderation) and running alone doesn't give you that cover of Men's Health magazine build. (Also, thank goodness I have a good sense of self-worth or that comment might have hurt, SCOTT.) It was reassuring to see that my bone density is thoroughly fantastic, so hopefully no new hips anytime in the next three decades. Also, I laughed at the density of my collarbones, both of which I have broken twice and one could actually see where those flimsy porcelain snapsticks had shattered previously.

There were a lot of numbers I didn't fully get a chance to understand but the gist is I have another set of guideposts to help me along on my journey. Sure, we all want to look good in the mirror, and to have fat wrapped around our organs, but the numbers which usually mean the most to me are those on the clock above the finishline as they cruelly tick upward. The less of those numbers I see the better. If I can use this scan to help me get those numbers down, than it was well worth my time.

But I guess I could go do a few more crunches.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Lifetime Splash and Dash 2 of 6 Recap

A Runner's Ramblings: Volume 13; 4th Edition 
19.35 miles run and 12.75 miles biked and 1800 meters swam in races in 2019 races
Race: Lifetime Splash and Dash Series
Place: Austin, TX
Miles from home: 13
Weather: 86 degrees; sunny; dry

2019 has been a tad of an anomaly for me. I am running my workouts the best I have in nearly a decade. However, this would only be my third race of the year.  The last race I did, a half-marathon, I had hoped would show me if I was going to race well or just have good workouts. Unfortunately, I dealt with a respiratory problem which left me just as unsure about my progress after the race as before.

The last aquathlon I did, five weeks ago, went spectacular for me. The only thing which hadn't gone my way was breaking the 25:00 mark. With the weather being much warmer on this day, I didn't expect that to happen. One good thing for me is unlike that race, where I hadn't swum in six months, I did have one swim event and three workouts under my belt. That is not even REMOTELY enough to make big leaps but it was at least something.

The day of the race there had been a rain storm in the mid-morning which somehow had cleared the humidity out of the area. I am sure there is an explanation for that but didn't make sense to me. Regardless, since I wasn't expecting to have a great race, and I am experimenting with all sorts of different workout regimens, I went for a small four-mile jog around lunch before this 6:30 p.m. race.

Arriving at the quarry, I hoped the water was still cool given all the rain Austin has received as of late. Someone told me it wasn't but as I slipped into the water, it was far cooler than I expected. This gave me some hope.


I picked my usual spot along the further buoy and when the gun started, I was a little perturbed that someone came from my right, on the other side of where they were supposed to be.  Soon, I had no choice but to let them get in front of me and then slide to the right again. Open water swims can be a tad annoying and I am glad that I am a strong swimmer who doesn't have any water anxieties.

I soon found that I was right in the slipstream of another swimmer. I couldn't pass him, but he wasn't going any faster than me. As I hardly felt spry enough to make a move on the swim, and was worried what the heat would do to me on the run, I just used his bubbles to guide me along. Without needing to sight while swimming as I could use him to keep me in a straight line, I had a rather enjoyable little dog paddle. As usual, a few swimmers blasted out like sharks, a few were behind them and then there was me. No one really around me on either side and no one nipping at my heels. Overall it felt good but until I got out of the water there was no way of really telling.

I slipped up the ramp, threw my shoes on, and crossed the mat to begin the run at 11:58. I knew that 12:10 was my fastest ever and that was two years prior.  I never came close to that in all of last year having swum a 12:50; 12:30; 12:18; 12:27; 12:30; 12:31, 12:29. In fact, this was 13 seconds faster than last month when I PRd. Well, that's good!


My first lap was just trying to get rid of a small side stitch as I tracked down a youngster (160 years old) in front of me. I knew I was faster than him on the run as I had beaten him handily last month.  This time, however, he held me off a tad longer than I expected and I wondered if he was rounding into shape. His swim was faster so who was to say his run might not be.

I passed him a little after the first lap but didn't hit my watch lap to see what I had just split. Rather than fumble with it and risk tripping, I knew I could just see what I had left on the next lap and do the math. As I have said before, this run course is not easy. The footing is dirty and rocks and roots, and it twists and turns with branches hanging down from trees. I was thankful for those trees today as they blocked the sun on the front half of the loop. But on the cruel climb on the back half, the sun was fully bearing down.

I could see another runner in front of me as we approached the end of the second loop and if I wasn't mistaken, he was the fella who had finished just a few seconds in front of me last month.  I hadn't known he was on my loop and while I might not have been able to catch him last month, I'd like to think I could have dug deep to do so if I was aware he was also finishing.  This time I wanted to make sure that didn't happen. It took me a bit longer than I wanted to catch him but I passed him on the same downhill portion I had passed the teen on the previous lap.

The stitch in my side was not relenting but I felt I was going to break 25 minutes and if so, it could hurt for another few minutes. I hit the last straightaway and saw I had 30 seconds to break that barrier. I gave it all I had and set my third consecutive (going back to last fall) PR and eked out a 24:58 which was good enough for 7th place overall. I lost overall Masters to a newly minted 40-year old who hadn't raced a single one of these last year. He used to beat me by two minutes. This time it was just 30 seconds.

What made me very happy was that my run appeared to be three consecutive 4:20 loops. I have no doubt in my mind I can get those down to 4:10, maybe even 4:05 each. If I actually get my butt in the pool and work on my swim, it is entire possible I can take another minute off this PR. That still won't put me close to winning this thing as the overall leaders would still be two minutes faster than me (most of that coming on the swim) but it sure does make me feel good that somehow, at less than two weeks away from being 43 years old, I still seem to have some surprises left.

The weather in Austin isn't going to do me any favors in the upcoming months but I have already shown that even in far less than ideal conditions, I am still improving. Here's to that upward climb!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Streak Ends

A week before my longest running streak ever ended, I finally knew when it would. After 143 straight days of running (besting my previous record by nearly 100 days), a very early morning wake-up call, a two-hour drive to an expo, a long day of signing books and talking to runners, and a desire to race well the next day meant that Saturday, April 27th would be the end of the streak. I know you were all so very concerned.

When I broke 100 days, I wrote a little blog-post about it because it was extremely earth-shattering and you needed to know. Actually, the vast majority of this blog for the past 12 years has been a place for me to write my thoughts and feelings down and if other gain insight from them, then fantastic! I will save you a repeat of the intense navel-gazing of that post, and suffice it to say that I am beyond pleased with no only how I performed during this streak but the fact that I ended it.

Only twice during that time did I feel like maybe I shouldn't run. However, while I went out for a run each time expecting to maybe turn around, I instead quickly got over the potential fear of injury of soreness and soldiered on.

I have been extremely lucky the past half-decade as I have not suffered a single running injury, per se. Sure I tripped and broke my hand in December of 2015 and was mugged by two men breaking my face and my thumb in 2017  (yes, you read that right) but since 2014 when I had intense calf pain that left me grimacing on runs for months, I haven't not gone for a run once because of pain in my legs. That is a long time, with a lot of races and a lot of miles to not tweak something. I do not take that for granted. And I think most of that comes from knowing when not to run.

As racing goes, however, I had a horrible half-marathon on the day my new streak began, mostly because of a breathing problem which I should have realized would happen. I don't wish in retrospect I had run the night before to keep the streak live, however. Racing is a crapshoot. We try to put ourselves in the best position possible and hope all the other dominoes fall the way they should. They didn't for me on race day but I am in the best running shape I have been in for nearly seven years and it is only a matter of time until that shows up on race day.

Unless the Austin heat kills me first.