What a pain in the…chest

Enough time has passed that I’m no longer completely freaked out by this, so I’ll explain in some detail what I meant in my recent update by “heart attack.”

By which I meant that I had a heart attack. Like, in my heart.

Let’s start by hopping into the Way-Back Machine and going to a little time I like to call “the week after my birthday, on a Tuesday night in mid-April.” Or something. Anyway, let’s set the scene: It’s after midnight, we’re in bed, the lights are off, two dogs are snoring on each side of us which fills the room with the white-noise of safety, and I’m asleep.

I find myself being pulled out of my dream state by an incredible sense of generally decentralized pressure. As I’m coming to, my sleep-addled brain draws the conclusion that Roxanne, our 120 pound Great Dane, has climbed onto the bed and is attempting to sleep on my chest. I thrash about a bit as I try to push her off, only to discover that she wasn’t on me, or the bed, or even my side of the room…in point of fact she was on her own bed in the corner, and probably looking at me like I was insane.

Then I decide that I must have become wrapped up and bound in the comforter. Amy refers to this phenomenon as “being burritoed” and has accused me of doing this to her on purpose in the past, so obviously she was trying to get some kind of explanatory revenge…except that the comforter was in a wad down under my knees.

At this point I came to the only remaining logical conclusion: our mattress was possessed by a poltergeist…

Everything you ever wanted to know about diagnosing Congestive Heart Failure from the patient perspective…

Decide. Commit. Succeed.

In the early summer of 2004 more than a decade of poor health choices caught up with me. It’s was hard to think of it as a decade of poor health choices, and if you’d have asked me about my health up to that point I’d have described it as “fair.” Which would have been grossly inaccurate.

When I was in high school, I remember how frustrated I was that I could never gain weight. Perhaps that doesn’t make sense from a mid-thirties perspective, but when you’re seventeen and weigh a-buck-forty at five-eleven (and one-forty was probably after a heavy meal and wearing a winter jacket soaked in water…or concrete), all you want is to “bulk up.”

I ran everyday, I had “a runner’s body,” and I hated it. My best friend had a naturally broad build with a thick chest and strong shoulders. He looked like the cover model from romance novels…and it drove me crazy. My jealousy was both good-natured and palpable.

I ate everything. And a lot of it. When I was actively running regularly and working manual labor jobs for six hours a day, I estimate I was consuming somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000-8000 calories a day. And I didn’t gain a pound. Not one.

Some of the most embarrassing photos of my life…

1827 days

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In a few hours I will have completed thirty-five trips around the sun. This isn’t a tremendous accomplishment, for the most part I was just along for the ride and hanging on for dear life; and based on the average maximum age of the men on both sides of my family, I’ve got about ninety years in me, so I’m still a decade away from half way there.

Still, a friend of mine pointed out a few days ago that thirty-five is “the age when even the elderly don’t think you’re young anymore.” That kind of hit me.

Birthdays Past and a list for the future…

Nothing Spectacular

So, last night I stepped on a scale for the first time since last autum.  I was expecting to be EXACTLY where I was then, about 275 give or take a pound or two.


That’s more than twenty lbs.  I haven’t even DONE ANYTHING yet.  I gave up Soda…big whoopie deepie doo.  Well, and started tracking my calories.  Again.

Now, this is exactly what I don’t want to get into this time around.  No focusing on the scale, no pouring over every missed opportunity, no berating myself every time I eat more than 2000 calories in a day.  The number on the scale is just a number.  It’s not me, it doesn’t say ANYTHING about how healthy I am, what I look like, what I FEEL like…just how much resistance a pressure pad dispersed when I stood on it.

I will not be posting regular weigh-ins here.  In fact, I doubt I’ll weigh myself again anytime soon, it doesn’t help me.  In fact, it does the opposite; I generally either feel bad about not losing enough, or I slack off because I think I’m ahead.

But not this time, no weight goals carved in stone.  My only goal is to dive into the water at the breakwater docks and swim under the Hawthorne Bridge on August 22nd; swim, bike and run like a man possessed; and not stop until I cross the finish line in Waterfront Park.  750 m in the water, 26 km on a bike and 5 k on my feet.  I don’t have to “win”.  I don’t even have to do well.  Just finish in less than four hours.

If I train well enough to survive, then weight loss is possible.  But it’s not about the weight loss, it’s about finishing.  I just want to finish.

And tonight I took the first steps down that path, litterally.  I stretched, warmed up with a slow walk for 3 minutes, walked at a fast pace for 10 minutes, ran for 2 minutes, walked at the same fast pace for another 10 minutes and finished with a two minute cool down.  Nothing spectacular, it’s my first time on the treadmill in a LONG time and my first time ever in the new shoes…so I took it easy.

One down, four more days to go.

The Clicker, My Ticker, and a Gold Star Sticker

For anyone not familiar with my writing style, please be advised this post will be long.  And full of personal denouement.  And long.  We will start with some backstory, charge into some current issues in my life, and then forge on to goals and expectations for the coming year.  Did I mention “Long”?

First of all, lets start with boring “new years resolution” stuff and just get that right out of the way.

I am, without a doubt, in the worst shape I’ve been in for the last half-a-decade.  While I’m not at my “high-water” mark from 2002, I’m not exactly moving in the right direction either.

I’ve never been much of an “exercise guy” by self-definition.  More of a “food lover/great chef/eats everything on his plate” kind of dude.  I have been since I was 12 years old.  Conversely, I was skinny as a rail as a kid.  I looked like a stick figure in my wedding photos.  I ran track in high school and set records that stood for years.  I played Soccer in college.  I could eat Taco Bell out of bean burritos and mexican pizzas on any given day, drink a gallon of soda and still look like Don Knotts’ skinnier kid nephew.

I remember eating hostess chocolate covered mini-doughnuts BY THE BOX every morning in high school.  One day, a classmate of mine looked at me and she said “someday you’re gonna regret eating those.  They will catch up to you.” and I laughed her off.

I am here today to say, “Holly McCutcheon, you were SO right.”

I used to be a serious couch potato.  Like, 50 hours a week or more level couch potato.  And video games.  And computer games.  And then we invented the DVD player!  And THEN we invented Everquest!!!  Aww…what memories.  Ah, what a monumental spread to my ass!

Between sedentary jobs, no desire to exercise, and a poor fitness example at home growing up (no blame, one parent had a debilitating illness, and one was a bit busy with, like, WORK and stuff) I didn’t really have the tools to do better.

I had a couple of health scares, some massive life changes and some opportunities to learn new habits, and eventually dropped back down to about 205 lbs.  That might not sound like much when I was 168 lbs the day I got married, but for a guy with my build, 205 was pretty good.  I was trim, in good health and looked ok with my shirt off.  pretty much all I could ask for.

That was 2007.

This, is 2010.

If you multiplied the time difference in years by 20, you’d have a pretty good guess at the number of lbs I’ve gained since then.

I’ve discovered some things about myself recently.  I suck with generalized goals.  I don’t track them well, and I don’t have a good history of sticking to them.  Life gets in the way (which is what life is, the stuff you have to do before you get to do the stuff you want to do) and eventually the hills obscure the road forward and my momentum simply tapers away into “laters” and “next times” and “when I cans”.

What I need is a giant grandfather clock with an extra hour on the face between midnight and one that reads “later” so I can finally get around to all the things I’ve put off until then.

Or perhaps I should try goals that don’t suck.  That might help too.

Of course, I tend to use really REALLY crappy goals like “lose X amount of weight” or “wear pants whose waist is less than my inseam” with numbers and sizes so impractical I can’t possibly hope to reach them anytime soon, and then I get discouraged when I don’t get there in three weeks.

So this year, I’m going to try a different approach.  Basically, I’m going to take a page from my wife and try a slightly more unorthodox approach.

A couple of years ago, my cousin ran his first triathlon.  He didn’t win, but he did finish.  He also found himself in significantly better shape than he was before he started training.

Going from couch potato to triathlete sounds insane just on the face of it, I get that.  So the challenge is a part of the allure.  I don’t have a regular access to a swimming facility.  I don’t own a road bike to ride.  I haven’t run distance since Bill Clinton was in his first term.  The whole thing sounds outlandish.  But I think I can do it.

Not all at once.  Not tomorrow, not even any time soon; but I think I can finish a standard Olympic Triathlon by the end of the year.  By the end of next year I could finish a 70.3 (half-ironman), and before I turn 40 I could try to qualify for the Ironman in Kona.  Now THAT would be great reason to vacation in Hawaii.

There are several triathlons here in the Portland area every year, and several more if you include Bend and Seattle as well; so I should have plenty of options to chose from this fall for my first triathlon.

So, as part of my motivation, I will start posting my training log here on this blog.  Five times a week.  I’ll start with the running and the exercise bike, and hopefully later this spring or early summer I’ll buy an economical road bike and start posting times and pictures from my training route around my neighborhood.

I’m sure I’ll lose some weight in the process, heck, I’d LOVE to drop out of the “Clydesdale” bracket before I try a 70.3 (that’s a year and a half to lose 70 lbs or so) and I think that’s doable.  But training for a triathlon is about getting in shape, and being healthy.  Losing the weight is a side affect, not the goal.  I think that will help.  Training five times a week is a goal that I can make.  Even if I miss some days, there’s a direct, reachable goal right in front of me when I try again.

It’s just five days.