Sunday, November 15, 2015

Healthy habits

I'm giving Brooke's Skinny Snowman Challenge another try this year. I started last year but never followed through.

It's only $5 and supports basic healthy habits like logging food and drinking water, but also some self-care strategies like focusing on the positive and taking time for myself every day.

It's no secret that I have been struggling with these kinds of habits, so I'm hoping this will help me finish out the year on a positive note.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I bought a Chevy Volt!

A used one. The new ones are a bit out of my price range. My last car was a new car, which I recently wrecked by sliding through a red light in the rain. Thankfully, no one was hurt.

I had been toying with the idea of an electric vehicle, because my workplace has 4 charging stations right up front in the big parking lot, but the price was prohibitive. Today after swim practice, I happened to notice my coach had a Volt in the parking lot, and asked him about it. He bought his used.

On a whim I started searching for a used one locally and I bought one. They are doing some minor appearance work on it so I won't get it until late next week. I can't wait!

I thought about buying another new vehicle, but I'm over the big payments. Besides, I still don't know what will happen long-term with my job.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Planning the next triathlon season

Most triathletes I know eagerly start signing up for races after they finish their final race of the season. After Cedar Point, I was not really interested in thinking about next year, or even very interested in training at all. I took about six weeks to get out of the doldrums -- I did a few workouts a week, a big switch from the summer when I had 1-2 workouts almost every day. To be honest, I needed that time and the rest.

The first glimmer of interest I had in next season was when a friend posted about Epic Races' Battle of Waterloo, a crazy 10-leg multisport race. I'm already signed up. I think that will be my big race next season.

I'm also planning to do the 5K Swim to the Moon again. I'll probably do the Sylvania Triathlon as a relay with my husband. He can do the run and I'll do the rest -- I never really want to do that run course again, it's horrible. I will find another Olympic distance to try instead.

All of my training buddies are into Ironman and Half-Iron races and I'm not so sure that's for me. They're so expensive and time-consuming and my job situation is still in a sort of limbo. I don't want to overcommit, especially since I don't have a permanent, full-time position yet.

I think training with a coach last year was one of the best decisions I made, but this year, I want to run things for myself and find a way to push myself without feeling like all I do is race, train, work, eat, and sleep.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Review: The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried, MD

I rarely review a book before I finish reading it, but this one is compelling enough and probably would be of interest to my blog readers, so I'm jumping the gun a bit. I'm about 2/3 through the Audible version of The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried, and it's helping a lot of the issues that I have been having and working through with my alternative practitioner fall into place.

I have Margo to thank for getting me interested in this book. It sort of struck me that, duh, at 44 I am definitely in the middle of perimenopause, even though I take the birth control pill so I haven't noticed a lot of the classic symptoms. I have been wondering if I should continue taking it or if my hormonal issues would be better if I stopped, and this book has a great "Balance Sheet" on the birth control pill that helped me think through that issue.

Even though I'm listening to it on Audible, I can't totally recommend that format because of the narrator. She probably would be a great narrator for a mystery novel or some other dramatic book, but she puts dramatic emphasis on words in strange places, and I find myself having to re-listen to spots to figure out what was really important in each section. Sometimes it feels like I am being yelled at, and in a book that talks so much about the importance of reducing stress in our lives, the choice of shouting narrator seems especially off-kilter. I also saw reviews that the tables don't work well in Kindle, so it may be best to go old-school on this book. I found a used copy on Amazon that was $10 including shipping so I can go back and get information that is hard to capture from the audio version.

This book has a quiz (which is included as a PDF with the Audible version) to help readers figure out which hormones might be out of whack: cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and/or thyroid. I found I had cortisol and (not surprisingly) thyroid issues. There are "Gottfried Protocol" suggestions for each imbalance. I like that she recommends starting with lifestyle interventions, like cutting back on coffee or adding in relaxation, before suggesting a lot of more aggressive interventions like hormone replacement. This seems safe and sensible. It seems dangerous for women to rush to add progesterone cream or other potentially-dangerous remedies without a doctor's advice like some other experts recommend.

The thing I don't love about this author is that somewhere between writing her first book and moving on to her second, she seems to have gone into hard-sell mode. If you follow the link for the quiz, you have to give your email address, so that she can send you advertisements for her supplements and virtual workshops. I'm glad I'm reading the edition of the book that is free from this seeming conflict of interest -- in fact, she criticizes other authors in this version for having such conflicts. I suppose it's a fact of life that someone who has had such a success would be tempted to cash in, especially when women were probably contacting her and asking for supplement advice.

There's enough good in this book for me to recommend it anyway, especially if you are struggling with weight, sleep, or mood issues that might be hormone-related.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Fat Chance by Nick Spalding

I read Nick Spalding's Fat Chance (not an affiliate link) because it was recommended on The Nutrition Diva's podcast.  I have mixed feelings about it -- as opposed to Robert Lustig's Fat Chance, which I think is brilliant and helpful. On the one hand, I agreed with Monica Reinagel that on the surface, it was a fun, fluffy read. On the other hand, though, it perpetuates some of the worst and most unhelpful stereotypes about people with weight problems, and I think that someone who studies nutrition should know better than to promote a book like this. I listened to it on Audible does not sponsor my blog, even though I really think they should. In general, I don't review books that I don't love, but I think this one is worth a little bit of a second look because of the issues it raises. 
What stereotypes does this book perpetuate? When we first meet our heroine Zoe, she is hilariously stuck in a dress in a too-small dressing room. Besides being tiresomely drawn out, this incident provides the last-straw moment that launches her into her weight-loss effort, in this case, a Biggest-Loser-style radio competition in which she enlists the help of her lovable-but-also-overweight husband, Greg, who we learned has broken a chair in an equally longwinded story and laugh-to-keep-from-crying story at a barbecue. The book is written as a series of diary entries supposedly meant to provide content for the radio show's website. 

Greg and Zoe were both hotties when they met, but they have "let themselves go" by doing things like eating entire trifles and other oversized British snacks. Their problems are all caused only by their weight, and as they lose weight, their problems vanish along with the extra pounds. Poof!

The weight loss, once they stop trying fad diets and rubbishy fitness items they find on late-night-TV, is steady and seemingly uninterrupted by plateaus or injuries. It had just never occurred to these two that they could be thinner if they just ate less and exercised more! Wow, what a discovery! They just never heard that before, apparently.  Once they lose weight they have all kinds of confidence and a fabulous sex life. There is no thought that weight regain is a possibility, because they have learned the magic eat-less-exercise-more formula. 

It was a nice, escapist fantasy while it lasted. I'm guessing the author has not experienced the reality of weight loss, because this version does not seem to even remotely reflect the experiences of most people I know with serious weight to lose.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Gluten-free Hashimoto's experiment results

I thought I'd share this since it may be able to help someone else. After 6 years of conventional thyroid treatment for Hashimoto's, I was only getting worse. I went to an alternative practitioner, who suggested I try going gluten- and dairy-free.

Here are my numbers before and after:

In addition to going gluten-free and (mostly) dairy-free, I also have stopped drinking coffee, started taking 1000 IU of Vitamin D3, and have been taking a smaller dose of T4. I have also backed down a bit on my workouts and have been trying to get more sleep.

The most important changes are the decrease in CRP (an inflammation marker) and in my thyroid antibodies. The changes to my thyroid hormones are probably mostly due to the dose change. 

I had noticed almost immediately that I had less aches and pains after dropping the gluten, even after a tough workout. I might have muscles that felt sore, but my joints didn't hurt. 

I think that this is a big change in such a short time. I am hoping that if I continue to make healthy changes, I can see these numbers get even better. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Roll with the Changes: Challenge Cedar Point Race Report

This is going to be a long post, with lots of photos. But I promise not to get into a bunch of triathlon number-talk.

When I committed to the Challenge Cedar Point Half Aquabike back in November (the swim and bike leg of a half-iron-distance race without the run), I had no idea what a wild ride it would take me on. 

I knew it would be a challenge, so I worked with a coach, trained with a team, and even bought a used wetsuit.  I made regular appointments with a massage therapist. I did a 5K swim and several 50-mile training rides. The race came up way faster than I thought it would.

I never got used to the wetsuit. I swam in it twice and hated it. I toyed with bringing it with me in case the weather was terrible, but I decided not to.

My friend sent me flowers (in the shape of a cupcake) to wish me luck. Sweet and gluten-free! My husband went with me to the race to be my one-man support crew, photographer, and cheering section. He took most of these pictures, though I did spring for some of the race photos to get a good finish line picture.

I was already freaking out a little because I heard that the weather at the race site was terrible and that the Saturday races had been cancelled because of storms. I checked into Hotel Breakers, which was very convenient even though it was a little expensive. I could take a shuttle to and from the race expo site to save my energy for race day. I picked up my packet and went to the athlete's meeting.

The weather had not gotten a lot better. It made for some dramatic photos with the roller coasters in the background, but it didn't give me a lot of confidence. I realized I was obsessively switching back and forth -- "Should I do it, would it be safe? I spent so much money, I have to do it..."

I decided that I had to stop waffling and just commit. I got body-marked, which always signals to me that I'm all in.  Somehow making the decision stopped the ping-pong game in my brain.

I was relieved to learn that instead of swimming in the open lake, we would be moved to the Marina, where it was a little more sheltered.

Race day came and was not looking any more welcoming. I got to the race site at around 5:45.

The roller coasters still gave everything a haunted, creepy feeling against the cold morning sky.

The worst part was waiting for it to start. I was regretting not bringing my wetsuit. There were three of us who weren't wearing them. They changed the swim course one more time after the full-distance swimmers got tossed around outside the breakwall, moving it inside where it was safer. The water was warmer than the air, so it was almost a relief to get in. We went in two at a time, so I elected to go in with the guy not wearing a wetsuit. The song playing as I got into the water was REO Speedwagon's "Roll with the Changes," which was a pretty good theme for the day.

I won't lie, the swim was tough. I got tossed around a lot, and triathlon swim is always a full-contact sport. I put my elbow into the back of a guy who decided he wanted to swim right under my armpit. I got grabbed and kicked, and also kicked unsuspecting swimmers myself. It's hard to see in goggles. I had to take them off a couple times and look around because I couldn't tell where I was going. I am sure I lengthened the course with my bad sighting.

My husband said he was relieved to see me come out of the water. You can see my Enell in this race photo, under my brand-new purple Zoot Suit.

In transition, I pulled on a bike jersey (also purple) over my suit because, believe it or not, I'm not super-happy with the way I look in full-body spandex and thought a little extra coverage might be nice. I certainly wasn't worried about getting cold.

The bike was just as tough as the swim. I never rally felt warm. I did okay, though, doing my best to take advantage of the winds (gusts up to 30 mph) when they were at my back, and get through it when the wind was in my face. There were 4 aid stations on the course, and lots of friendly volunteers and spectators, which all helped me keep my spirits up and keep on rolling. I didn't rage against the weather, I just accepted that I wasn't going to be as fast as I wanted to be and did my best. My legs felt pretty good, considering that I was doing 56 miles on them.

Out on the course, another challenge. The roads were rough, and around mile 40, I noticed my tire was flat. It didn't seem totally flat, and I only had 16 miles to go, so I tried pumping it up with my CO2 cartridge, keeping it in my bike jersey in case it flattened out again. With about 5 miles to go, it was totally flat. I tried to pump it up but all the air had leaked out of the cartridge, so I had to ride it in flat. It was either that or walk my bike in, which would have taken too long. I fishtailed a couple of times on the turns coming in, because bikes aren't really designed to be ridden on flat tires. 

With an Aquabike, once you cross the bike finish line, your time is stopped. I had a chance to wipe off my face, fix my ponytail, and put on a hat to smile for the race photographer. As a result, I got my first-ever decent finish line picture. 

I also had my husband take some photos of me in the new long-sleeved bike jersey I bought, sporting my new medal. This race turned out to be an expensive proposition. I'm not even going to try to add up all the costs, because I don't want to see the numbers. 

With the conditions being as tough as they were, I didn't let the fact that I was the last woman to finish the Aquabike get me down. This was a tough course, on a tough day. It was a half-iron distance race, not a sprint, so the field was a tougher field. I wasn't the last person out of the water or the last person out on the bike, it was just that most of the people behind me went on to do the half marathon too. I felt very proud of myself for just finishing.

I got one more medal for my rack. It's really filling up!

I don't know that I would do this again -- training for this race and having a full-time job didn't leave a lot of time for anything else -- but it gave me a lot of confidence. Getting through those tough conditions with a smile on my face makes me feel like a total badass.

The next day, of course, the lake was smooth as glass and the sun was out. No regrets, though. Now that I got through it, I'm happy it was so challenging -- it makes a better story.

I've taken a couple of days off from training and I think tomorrow I might be ready to do a workout. I felt surprisingly good the next day, my joints didn't hurt and even my muscles weren't that sore. I was tired and hungry all day, but I think that's to be expected.

"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07