A new year and I’ve decided to create a new blog (and twitter and for the first time an Instagram whatever that is for but I’ll work it out). I’ve had another blog and twitter handle for a long time over at http://www.savilltech.com and @NTFAQGuy that focuses on my computer related activities such as technical how-to videos and books I write but for this new blog I wanted to focus on my training related activities.
I’m currently training for three Ironman events this year:
- Texas (end of April)
- Santa Rosa (end of July)
- Chattanooga (end of September)
These are not my first, I’ve done three previously (I’ll get to that) but for those that are not sure an Ironman is a triathlon event and the distances are:
- 2.4-mile swim
- 112-mile bike ride
- 26.2-mile run (a full marathon)
At the end of this you get a shiny bit of metal, bragging rights and then you go get a tattoo of the M-Dot, you can see mine below.
Most Ironman athletes are lean, designed for speed and grace. I’m not. At all. Now over 3 months recently I dropped about 20 lbs of fat but I’m still at around 200 lbs. which is very big for an Ironman and definitely does not help but I have lots of conflicting goals, but that’s OK!
My goal for this blog is not 100% clear to me right now, I have a few thoughts but it may evolve over time:
- Something to track my progress
- A place to share guidance for people that ask for training/diet advice however I want to be very clear. I’M NOT TRAINED TO GIVE TRAINING OR NUTRITIONAL ADVICE. I’ve found some things that work for me and happy to share but everyone is different
- My wife wants me to set her some programs for her training so I’ll share those here as “Wifey Workouts” but many beyond women could use them to get started
- Random thoughts
For this first post I want to set some background to who I am, my goals, what I’ve done so far to establish some trust and then what training I did today.
I’m British. Born and raised in London and have been in Texas for about 13 years. I love it in Texas. People are friendly, it’s a great standard of living, loads to do although it can get a bit warm 🙂.
When I was very young my father and I did various martial arts. I started out with Karate (various forms) which I enjoyed.
But then I stopped and I have a very sweet tooth. I don’t eat salad. Or vegetables (except potatoes when served with a steak or cut up into little fingers with a burger or hot dog). I like pizza, pasta, burgers, hot dogs, cakes, sweets. You get the idea. People think because I train a lot I like nothing more than to eat salad. I don’t and won’t. Part of the reason I train is so I can eat tasty things but we’ll get to that as well. I put on weight and this picture sums it up pretty well. I guess I was about 10 (this was a joke picture taken at Disney World).
I remember at a school event one of the teachers said to me in front of my Dad (who was very fit, rode the bike to work every day) “John, looks like you’re eating too many packets of crisps” (crisps = chips). Well that next day an exercise bike appeared in my bedroom and each night I would go on it. There was no malice here by my Dad. There was no meanness. It was to help me and it did. I would watch TV or listen to radio programs (the original BBC Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy was a favorite of mine) as I peddled my little butt off. Now today I think people would frown on this type of “body shaming”, I don’t know. It came from concern for my health and love and it gave me the awareness of my body that at least kept me training. I lost weight and we started doing martial arts again. I remember one Saturday going to piano lesson and this little Asian lady who I saw every week said “You’ve lost weight, you used to have face like apple”. Thanks!
My Dad and I did Tae Kwon Do, Kempo Jujitsu, Aikido, Thai Boxing. There were nights I did 4 hours of martial arts. Two hours of Tae Kwon Do then straight after 2 hours of Kempo Jujitsu. It was awesome. I did this 6 days a week. We never cared about belts. We learnt what we could from different systems and found things that worked for us. To this day, I practice combinations from all the different martial arts. I was never good at many things but I was good at that.
Well at 18 I had to get a job and at night I would study for a degree in computer science which I got. I rode my bike to work each day as at first I could not afford the train fare. Rain or shine I would ride 15 miles from Welling to London then 15 miles back in the evening. In the morning after riding my bike to work I would go to the gym and do weights, punch bag etc. As my career progressed I could afford the train and you get soft and riding my bike in the freezing rain became less attractive so I became a “fair weather rider” then eventually I stopped riding altogether but I would still get up at the crack of dawn and go to the gym before work. I was fit and strong but I loved my bad food so no matter how much you train if you consume more calories than you eat you will put on weight and I did. Some people I trained with bet I couldn’t lose 2 stone (about 30 pounds) in 3 months but if I did they would buy me a big steak dinner so I went on a diet for 3 months and lost 2 stone. This is important as it’s the same diet I used again recently to trim down. The diet? Actually simple:
- No wheat based products (so no bread or pasta which killed me)
- Nothing fried
- No fast food
- No dairy (milk, cheese, butter)
- No candy, cakes
- No soda
I basically lived on chicken, beef (lean), potatoes, rice, tomato and onion. Oh, and delicious water. Now if you like salad great. If you like fish, great. If you like vegetables, great. You can eat that but I didn’t. I would have the odd bit of fruit but honestly didn’t and don’t like that much either. Just watch the quantities! Portion control is key. I don’t know if this is any “fad” diet today but it worked. It probably worked because I hated every bite so you would not overeat but it worked and I kept the weight off and then added tasty food back but with a bit more control. It’s interesting when you do this type of diet as when you come off it you can’t eat burgers. It tastes terrible as its so greasy but I got them back 🙂
Time carries on and I moved to America. I carried on training before work every day at 24 hour fitness initially and now Lifetime Fitness. I also got back into martial arts taking up Krav Maga and quickly they asked me to become an instructor so I would go out to LA every few months to go through instructor training and certified at Brown Belt Krav Maga Worldwide instructor level and completed the Black belt training but at this point I had got bored with teaching. It was supposed to be my hobby but I was the senior instructor at the school and just was not enjoying it so I stopped. Krav is not like a Karate where everyone is a black belt. It took me about 7 years to get to Brown Belt instructor level it took more to complete the black belt training. You go out to LA for each phase of instructor training (which is a full week) so you can teach that level. During this time I also completed things like the Gracie Survival Tactics (GST) which is a one week course given to police and army self-defense instructors and I was allowed to attend as I taught several police officers and that was great. I wanted a new challenge.
Running seemed like a good thing as in the past I had done the London marathon but never really liked running but Disneyworld were doing marathons and I LOVE Disneyworld so I decided to do that. They have something called the Dopey challenge (I’ve just signed up for the 2018). This is:
- 5k run on Thursday
- 10k run on Friday
- Half marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday
- Full marathon (26.2 miles) on Sunday
I did the inaugural one and many other Disney runs and you get LOTS of bling! You get medals for each individual run, one for doing the half and full (the Goofy) and then another for doing all 4 (the Dopey).
Now I’m still doing lots of weights. I never wanted to be small. I was about 210 at this time. There is plenty of fat in there but also muscle 🙂 I did a lot of cardio but balanced to keep/gain muscle. Motivations are our own but being strong was always important to me. You may say “but you did martial arts and size does not matter”. That is a load of crap. Yes, with enough skill you can overcome a larger, stronger opponent but over 30 years of martial arts has taught me size and strength is huge, especially on the ground. I trained with Renner Gracie at the GST and he said the best thing related to size “for every 6 months of training it enables you to match someone 10 lbs heavier”. So if someone is 100 pounds heavier than you then about 5 years of training will help even things up assuming they have no training.
I did every Disney run and wanted something new. At Disney I saw someone wearing an Ironman finisher jacket. Now I had heard of the Ironman but never seriously considered doing one. I had never swam freestyle, I did breaststroke. I was pretty confident on the bike part and obviously could do a marathon but all those things together. Now this guy was pretty old so I decided that was next. I went home and signed up for the Texas 2015 Ironman in May. About 4 months of training time. I did an Olympic triathlon (about ¼ of the distances) once in England after I ran the London marathon but nothing since. I didn’t do a half Ironman first. I just went for it. I had friends who said I would fail that I was too big and would never do it. One even bet me to cook me BBQ dinner if I succeeded (that was a tasty meal).
So I learnt to swim front crawl (freestyle) started doing miles on the bike and running. Now ALL of my training was on a stationary bike at the gym and on a treadmill (which is how I did most marathon training). The weekend before the Ironman I went out on my old (14 years old) racing bike I bought in England for the triathlon I did there for 20 miles to get the feel of it but that was it. I didn’t use a coach. During this extra cardio I did extra weights to ensure I didn’t lose muscle and actually went up in weight to about 220 (some muscle and some fat as clearly since I was doing so much training I should eat everything I’ve ever wanted to right? 🙂 ).
I’ll do a separate, detailed blog post about my first Ironman experience for those considering but it was amazing. The support, the people are out of this world. My actual performance. Ugh! It was BRUTAL. In many ways. Now, before I go further I did not train enough, at all. A friend of mine says you have to pay the price. You pay in training or you pay on the day. Well, I paid on the day! The swim was hard and I wore a wetsuit but the bike! It was 100% humidity and about 95 degrees. I used a special sun tan lotion I bought at the triathlon store. Well, it was crap. On the bike ride I could feel my skin actually cooking. Now Ironman have their own lotion stations that smother you up and I used that for the run portion and always use now but the damage was done. I got off the bike totally dead. I found out the next day I had second degree burns on my legs and arms when I went to the Carenow where I got some silver cream stuff and bandages. Take a look. Also notice the chubbiness 🙂 This was taken the day after by my wife when I got home.
I still have tan lines on my arms from 2 years ago! Well I remember sitting in the transition tent thinking “there is no way I can run a marathon now” but then I realized I just had to. So I got up and basically walked 26.2 miles. You are not allowed headphones or music during an Ironman so it was just me and the crowds (who are awesome) but I was exhausted. I also get up very early so go to bed early so by 9pm I was mentally tired as well and the last few miles took forever but I finished. My final times were:
- Swim – 1:37:31
- Bike – 6:33:27
- Run (walk) – 6:28:51
Overall time 15:09:50 with transitions (which were loonnnggggggg). BUT I FINISHED!
As I crossed the finish line I kinda was falling and someone caught me. They stood me up long enough to take the picture then I collapsed, was put in a wheelchair where I spent an hour in the medical tent where I experienced the worse pain of my life. Now there was an IV shortage so if you were consious they made you hydrate by mouth so I had to drink chicken broth however they saw the sunburn and tried to help me by putting a cold wet cloth on my legs. Well to this day I don’t know what happened but that cold cloth hit my leg and a cramp surged up my body into my stomach and I just doubled over in intense pain. My stomach would not stop cramping and I was just clenched over growling trying hard not to cry 🙂 I was an Ironman after all and Ironman don’t cry. An hour later I was allowed out the tent (they were amazing in there) and drove myself to hotel where I phoned my wife (who stayed in Allen as we have young twins). Turns out the runner tracking didn’t update for a while during the run so my wife who was monitoring suddenly got no updates for about 90 minutes where it caught up. She told me she seriously wondered if I was dead when it stopped tracking as she knew I would never give up so that was the conclusion. I swore I was done. Bucket list checked. Went to sleep.
I woke up, went and collected my bike and bags (I used the tribiketransport valet service which for $40 they pick up your bags and bike even if you don’t ship with them so you can pickup next day which is AWESOME) and bought the finisher jacket, polo and anything else to show I had done an Ironman J A week later I went and got the tattoo. On the drive home (which sucked as I was hurting from muscle pain and burnt skin) I considered what I had achieved and really felt that had not been my best attempt. I was sure I could do better. By the time I got home 4 hours later I was going to sign up for next years as it had been freak weather, I had not trained enough and it was not my best.
So I did some more training but really was not much better than the year before in terms of preparation (but a little better, I bought a new fancy bike which I was sure would shave hours off my bike time, I was disappointed) but fate was not on my side. Now the good news is I never visited the medical tent this time however there was very bad flooding for the 2016 Texas Ironman. So much that chunks of the bike course were gone so it was reduced to only 96 miles (if I remember correctly) so not really a full Ironman any more. It was still hot but during the marathon there was a massive hail storm. I was between stations when it hit so basically I was out running (walking) during a painful hail storm. I remember that my face was hurting but honestly I was too beaten to care much. I finished. Times and finishing below. Now they are better but remember the bike was 16 miles shorter!
So once again. Can’t really count this. I decided to do another Ironman that would be cooler weather so next day I signed up for Chattanooga (the only places left were Foundation which cost double but that extra goes to charity so I was OK with that). Chattanooga in September will be cool I said. That will give me a better shot I said as I don’t do well in the heat. We don’t have heat in England. I sweat. A lot (as we’ll discuss when I get to todays training).
I also decided I needed to shed some fat without losing muscle. I was confident I had about 20 lbs of fat I could lose that would help not having to carry it around on the course so I did my 3 month diet again I did in England about 15 years previous. Remember?
- No wheat based products (so no bread or pasta which killed me)
- Nothing fried
- No fast food
- No dairy (milk, cheese, butter)
- No candy, cakes
- No soda
Now. I made a few changes. Firstly I allowed myself a whole-wheat muffin in the mornings before training. Also on Tuesday night I would have cheesecake factory where I had large bowl of rigatoni pasta with marinara sauce with grilled chicken breast on the side and on Friday night I could have pizza. These were the nights before my big cardio days. I also think its good to give the body lots of carbs a couple of times a week to “trick” it. Also I have the occasional treat. When we go out for pizza we get ice cream after. If we go to movies I take some chocolate raisins with me (branchs are my favorite) and on Fridays I’ll have a couple of donuts for breakfast instead of a banana (one maple glaze and one vanilla sprinkle). I try to be good most of the time but like the 80:20 rule. 80% of the time be good but 20% of the time cheat a little. I enjoy Christmas day and eat what I want etc. On date night with my wife I’ll have tasty things. My typical training is:
- Monday – 60 minutes hill running then hour chest and triceps
- Tuesday – 60 minutes bike/swim/elliptical then hour back and biceps
- Wednesday – 2 or more hours cardio then little shoulders
- Thursday – 45 minutes elliptical and 1:15 chest and triceps
- Friday – 60 minutes stair machine then hour back and biceps
- Saturday – Hours and hours of cardio misery (bike then running but mostly bike)
Notice I don’t really do legs or abs but I’ve just started to add in 10 minutes of abs after every day as my wife fantasies about Jason Statham so that’s the goal 😀
I lost 20 lbs going from 220 to 200 and actually gained some muscle. I was eating a lot of protein powder (and still do). Also I’ve made this more of a lifestyle change. I still don’t drink any soda (in fact I don’t like it now even though Dr Pepper Ten used to be my favorite) and trying to just generally be better. After training I have 60 grams of protein and a banana. About 9:30 am have a 20 g protein shake, have lunch, at around 2 pm have 20 g protein shake, have dinner (at 5) then about 7:30 have 25g casein protein before bed (which is about 9pm, I get up at 4am most days). I’ve never drunk alcohol (except at Christmas, Baileys, yum), never smoked or tried any drugs so those things are not factors. My parents never drunk or did those things so were never exposed to them and with all the martial arts never liked the idea of them. Apart from eating complete crap my body was a temple 😀 I am a very happy, silly person (my wife will tell you). I’m pretty immature. I read comics still. I wear superhero under armor shirts when I train (in part to motivate me). I’ve never needed alcohol to have a good time.
So I was in better shape and done some better training so was ready.
Well guess what. Chattanooga had freak weather in 2016 and it was about 95 degrees. Unbelievable. Now the swim is AWESOME. It is downstream. There were pictures of plastic bags who made the cut off time :-). The bike course is 116 miles instead of 112 (I guess to make up for the easier swim) and it was hilly as was the run but I did it however my times really were not that great. Once again the heat sucked everything out of me but at least I didn’t burn or visit the medical tent.
My goal is to go to Kona, the ultimate Ironman and I’ll never qualify with my size/training so they have a legacy program. Do 12 Ironmans you can apply via a lottery so that’s my goal. That is why in 2017 I want to do three. That would get me half way there. I’ve also maintained training and focused more on running. I just did a couple of marathons and have up’d my Saturday training which brings me to today!!!
I don’t normally take pictures of weight or setup but wanted to share my setup a little and where I am now. Also because every villain in a movie is British I’m therefore untrustworthy so felt the need to backup what I say with a little evidence to build trust. My goal for today was more than last week which was:
- 3:20 on the bike (about 70 miles)
- 2:10ish running (13.1 miles)
Today I wanted to add 10 minutes of swimming first (1/4 mile) and 20 minutes to the bike ride. This is the first time I’ve swam since Chattanooga. This would be about 6 hours of cardio. So below was my planned nutrition.
I have one extra waffle and gu as my routine is for drink I add Nuun to my water and for food :
- On the hour a Gu
- 20 minutes past hour half a waffle
- 40 minutes past hour other half of waffle
This gets me about 250 calories an hour and I drink about a liter of water each hour (starts of less then increases). I thought I would take some baseline pictures based on the scale at the gym which are below.
Now that bodyfat % is not right. I’m higher than that and I don’t care about BMI. Also you may think at even around 9% I have rippling abs. I don’t 🙂 There are numerous reasons for this
- Everyone carries weight differently. I carry it around my gut and hips. I have very little fat on my chest, arms, back, legs etc
- That is a percentage and I’m heavy. 9% of 197 is still nearly 18 pounds of fat. My twins were about 6 lbs each when they were born so I have 3 small newborns of fat on me 🙂
- I’ve never done much abdominal training so don’t have much under the fat except from working rest of body
But I’m getting there. That’s where I am right now.
So to the bike. 3:40 is the goal for today. Below is my bike setup. I take 3 bikes. One to ride on. One next to me to hang nutrition bag between and one in front to put ipad on. I’m here at 4am so will be in room till about 8am way before any classes start. I also put down towels everywhere as I’m disgusting and sweat huge amounts and even with these towels I have to get lots of wipes after to clean up for next people.
Well did the 3:40. Had to take a potty break at 1:30 and the clock reset but below is the final 2:10 which taking those averages over 3:40 makes it just under 78 miles and 2800 calories. I watched the last 2 hours of Hateful Eight and the new Jake Reacher movie during the bike ride. I preferred the first Reacher film but was still pretty good. Last week I watched Iron Man and Hard Rain, the week before was the 80’s Flash movie (still awesome). I like watching films as it helps the time pass and makes me look up which is important when actually riding a bike! My first Ironman my neck was killing me from looking up as I wasn’t used to it.
I had used up one of the 1.5 liter smart waters so in total had drunk 2.5 liters of water. I filled up my normal bottle from the tap (1 liter), put on my knee sleeves and did the run and did the 2:10, 13.1 miles. I don’t watch movies during the run and instead just listen to music as looking down is not ideal.
I got through the 1 liter in my bottle and most of the final 1.5 liter smart water so nearly another 2.5 liters drunk putting me at 5 liters total drank over the 6 hours of cardio:
- 10 minutes swim
- 3:40 bike
- 2:10 run
I also had eaten 6 waffles and 6 gus so had consumed about 1500 calories and burnt about 5000 (would have burnt some during the swim, maybe 100 ish) so 3500 difference (lb of fat, but of course you don’t just burn fat). I stretched a little and weighed myself again before having a shower (I had flip flops and towel on so maybe 1 lb added)
So 191 from 197. 6 lbs less. Now that is not all water as we burn other stuff but maybe 5 lbs of water loss. 2.2lbs of water is 1 liter so I’m down just over 2 liters of water and I drank 5 during so my body has exhaled/sweated 7 lbs of water over the last 6 hours. Gross!
So now I’m home. Drank my 60 g of protein on drive home and just had egg white tacos with a few steak fries and low fat mac ‘n cheese in it which is awesome along with a little treat of punch to get my sugar up a bit. Dinner will be spaghetti bolognaise at Maggiano’s :-).
A good days training. My goal is to increase the swim, bike and run next week a little. I want to be in a much better place for the Texas Ironman this year and with 3 months of training still to go and being where I am right now I feel pretty good. I need to really focus on swimming during the week and mid-week runs.
I feel like the ending of Shawshank Redemption. You’ve come this far maybe you’re willing to come a little further. This was a very long post. About 3 hours sitting here writing straight after the training but it was great writing it. Made me think about a lot of things. Going forward they will be much shorter. I’ll post progress, post workouts for the wife (and others) and just other thoughts.
I am no expert, this is just what I do and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but I’m always learning. This may motivate you. It may give you ideas. It may just be interesting or none of them.
I am lucky that I get to try many things and none of this would be possible without my amazing wife Julie who supports all the crazy things I want to do, always encourages me and takes the full burden of looking after everyone including me!
If you take one thing from this let it be that anyone can do anything. You don’t have to be super lean, you don’t have to make things a singular goal. I truly believe that anyone can do anything. You just have to have will power and a true desire. You may not always do what you wanted. You may not always finish but that’s OK. The only true failure in life is to not try. I believe that absolutely. Watch the final minutes of an Ironman. It brings tears to my eyes, the heart and soul of these people that do not give up. They may not finish but they will do their best. Amazing to me. I mentioned I read comics. There is one part that sums up my beliefs from Fantastic Four 604 about trying and what true failure is and I’ll end with that for today.
Thank you and never let someone tell you what you can’t do.