Mind Games

This is the third article in the Ironman Chronicles series.

Mind games, really. Mind over matter. Sheer determination of the will. Overcoming, victorious, breakthrough. Is it fantasy or reality? Can I really will my mind to ignore fear? The race is less than two days away. What is the greatest obstacle I will have to overcome to complete this grand trek across 140.6 miles?

My mind tells me it’s my swimming.

Swimming is the dark dragon that still needs to be slain. I’ve trained extra hard since mid-May, swimming close to seven miles per week. I’ve seen my times in the pool drop from a 1:55/100 meters to about 1:45/100 meters.

All that seemed to have been erased today during my short, practice swim in choppy, freezing water in a dark, menacing lake. The only consolation was not having to taste nasty saltwater.

I wish I was the X-Men character, Storm. I’d make the wind disappear to make the lake as smooth as glass so that I wouldn’t have to get pounded in the face swimming into a wave crest every three strokes. But alas, I can’t control the weather on race day.

Me and the Moose

Don't know why this moose was at the lake, but we got a picture with it after our short practice swim.

I can only control my mind and my body. I can choose to recall that I’ve swum well in training. I can choose to remember that I’ve swum 4,000 meters on numerous occasions. And I can do it again in a lake on Sunday. Despite my dislike of swimming, I can choose to remember that I’ve been swimming since I was eight years old. That’s well over 36 years. So I can damn well swim 2.4 miles in freezing, choppy water if I put my mind to it.

Triple Training

3. Three sports. Multi-sport. This is triathlon training.

Swimming: I’ve probably had the three best days of swimming in the last five months that I’ve been training as a triathlete. Last Wednesday’s pool workout was my longest yardage at 2400 yards, but I felt fantastic afterwards. Friday’s cove swim was my fastest time ever for a 1-mile swim in the open ocean at 36 minutes with breaks at the buoys. While that’s not super fast, it does mean that I’m very capable of completing the half Ironman swim distance. The water at the cove was unusually calm and warm. Today’s open water swim at La Jolla Shores was also very good for me (2000 yards). We swam and ran afterwards. Not a single ounce of fatigue.

Running: Saturday I ran 14 miles. Today I ran a little over five miles. I recovered well and felt fantastic today.

Cycling: After the solid swim-run workout this morning, I went for an easy 22-mile bike ride in the afternoon. In the past I would have been exhausted and my legs would have been fatigued. Today, no problem after the ride.

All in all, this has been the best week of training in my young life as a triathlete!

From Fat to Freedom

***** Adapted from “About Me” originally posted on October 11, 2008 in the IntoFitness section of whatsbruin.net *****

In the summer of 2007 I decided to step on a scale just for the heck of it. The number I saw shocked me out of my sedentary life of obesity that was leading me down the road of cardiovascular disease and an early death. On August 30, 2007 I purchased a personal training membership at LA|FITNESS and have never looked back.

About 14 months into fitness

About 14 months into fitness

Before - circa June 2006

Before - circa June 2006

My name is Gerry, and I have been overweight most of my life, except for maybe 16 years (ages 0-6, 14-24). Those years were when I was a young child and when I was a competitive tennis player. But even during those lean years, food and overeating, as well as a yo-yo pattern of gaining and losing weight, were the physical issues that plagued me for as far back as I can remember.

At the age of 34 in May of 2000, I was denied a lower premium on my life insurance policy so I decided to get a physical to find out why. The routine physical showed no sign of disease; however, the blood work forecasted a grim future:

  • Glucose = 92 {normal 70-110}
  • Triglycerides = 1084 {normal < 200}
  • Cholesterol = 257 {normal 100-200}
  • HDL = 21 {normal = 35-60}
  • Other cholesterol ratios were too high to be calculated.

My doctor said:

Gerry, if you don’t make a change in your life, you will contract Type II diabetes, and will most likely have to be on high blood pressure medication for the rest of your life. This will lead to cardiovascular disease and wide array of medications. You will die of either a heart attack, stroke, or complications from diabetes.

The fear of that conversation produced a change in my diet and exercise for about a month. My subsequent blood work improved over the next five months. But eventually the fear wore off, and I went back to my old habits of overeating and not being active. My doctor suggested follow up blood work and regular physicals, and had scheduled another round of blood tests for me, but after seven years, I still had not gone back for those tests or physicals.

Before - circa July 2007

Before - circa July 2007

In July of 2007 at the age of 41, my father-in-law underwent heart surgery. While we were visiting him in the hospital I noticed that the other cardiac patients were of varying ages. One in particular was in his 30s and extremely obese. Upon my return from that visit, I vowed never to end up in the cardiac ward. I was tired of that nagging pain in my knees as I walked up the stairs. I was weary of the pain in my ankles as I walked the short distance from my bed to the bathroom every morning.

So that’s when I decided to weigh myself.

My stats that summer were:

  • Weight = 250+ pounds
  • BMI = 37
  • Body fat = 33.4%
  • Waist = 44 inches
  • Pants = size 44 (tight)

The brand new LA|FITNESS gym in my neighborhood was having its Grand Opening event. I wanted to get a free t-shirt, which was the only reason I planned on going on August 30, 2007. But during the evening ofAugust 29th, I had a very vivid dream that I was working with a personal trainer, and I was really fit and buff. I took the dream to be an omen, and the next day I listened to a sales pitch about the benefits of personal training. I bought a membership because I knew I needed to lose almost 80 pounds… and yes, I did get my free XL t-shirt, which barely fit.

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