Friday, July 27, 2018

The Transformation Equation - The dynamics of how I did it, and how you can too!

Carb Loading?
1299 Days, 14 hrs, 24 minutes, 53 seconds. The time that has elapsed since the day I looked in the mirror  and felt disgusted with myself. The moment I thought "What have you done?" And the day I started out on my quest to lose weight. I had no idea how long or how far I could or would go. I told myself this was the time, and no matter what I was not going to give up! To this day I have held myself accountable to that promise!

I watched a video once that related losing weight to holding a stretched elastic band in your hands out in front of you, and I have always remembered that. Something about it stuck with me. At first it's easy to hold onto but as time goes by the tension becomes harder and harder to hold, until eventually you cant hold it any longer. If you're reading this because your looking for guidance, you need to be ready for this moment. This will be the moment when you really feel like giving up.  The moment where you may wonder why you started in the first place, or why you should continue. This moment will probably happen multiple times over the course of your journey and it is in learning how to deal with this moment that will determine your success or failure. For me this moment comes in the form of diet cravings. I hold out for a long period and then cant hold back anymore. I go into frenzies of post workout face stuffing, almost uncontrollable binge eating, where I will smash thousands of calories of junk. Not because I'm hungry, just because holding back for so long builds up inside. I have found a way to use this to get cravings out of the way. I almost embrace these moments. I let them happen, wake up the next day, go for a long run, or a long bike ride and then go to the gym. I get back on track. For that brief period its 2 steps forward one step back. But I always try to keep forward momentum.

For me that moment looking in the mirror was the driving force that kept me motivated day after day. I always remember how gross I felt, and why I started and it keeps me strong. The moment that really changed everything was when diet and exercise became not a choice that I made, but a lifestyle that I lived. So if you're reading this thinking the changes I made sound so easy, they are. It's the sticking with it for hundreds upon hundreds of days that will be true test of determination!

Before we start, I should state that I am truly like a pet pig. I LOVE FOOD! I ate not because I was hungry but because I loved eating, and tasting and drinking. If there was food around you can bet that I was going to get in on it. As I soon found out that eating this way is like using your credit card - you can have it now, but eventually the bill comes and you gotta pay up - everything has changed and I have now had to learn to control my eating and this has by far been one of the biggest challenges I have faced.
The initial changes I made were easy, splitting my food up into 6 meals a day using protein shakes and high protein foods to keep me feeling fuller for longer. I had an active job in the oil patch so I wasn't too concerned about calories at this point. I headed down to the local gym and bought a membership and started doing cardio 3-5 times a week for 30-45 minutes and some strength training a couple times a week. My extra pounds started falling off. But this wasn't enough. I ended up downloading a calorie tracking program and tracking all my foods making sure I was eating enough of each macro nutrient (proteins, carbs and fats) .

The Cheat Day, "Breakfast of Champions!"
At this point I was still taking "cheat days" where I would binge eat pizza and burgers and cookies and basically everything I could fit in in one day. This helped fight off the cravings for junk food, and allowed me to stay on track. It worked for quite some time until I hit a plateau at 225 lbs. At this point I hired a personal trainer and started hitting the gym with vengeance. She helped me with workout plans and got my diet on track, with the exception of my "cheat days" which still happened a little too often.

The Beginning of every Week!
It wasn't until I cleaned up my diet completely that I saw the next few pounds leaving, this took a lot of effort, I had to cut sugars, beer, most processed foods, and worst of all, the cheat days I loved so much. Every Sunday without fail, I would spend hours in the kitchen prepping all my food for the following week. I would portion, weigh and package everything for convenience. I had to turn down BBQs at work and instead go to the lunchroom and eat my chicken and veggies.

Now, I had goals this year to run three ultra marathons, stepping my way up to a 70 miler in August. Because of this I had to make exceptions to my diet. The first few weeks of running I could sustain myself on fruits but as my runs progressed to longer distances and times, I had to add some sugars back in on long run days to fuel my workouts. I managed to get my weight down to 195 for my 50km race but got a little scared after this race thinking I was still a little too big. I hadn't been using my calorie tracker for a year and a half as I had been prepping meals and eating the same thing day in and day out, but decided that I now needed to be extra strict in the following weeks coming up to my 80k. I continued meal prepping and tracked every single calorie I ate. I searched the internet for the best macro split until I found one that I thought would work (40% carb, 30% fat, 30% protein seems to work well for my body type - this breakdown may not work you). I set it up and ate to it right up until race week. I stepped on the scale and I was 185.4 lbs pre-race.

Chances are you have heard of (or tried) one of the many diets boasting rapid weight loss by taking some miracle pill or drink, or workout programs promising rapid results. I'm here to tell you there is no miracle and there is no quick way to lose excessive weight in a healthy fashion. There is only motivation, dedication and determination.

I get asked for advice a lot on how to go about losing weight. So I figured I would put forth the basic principles here. Now to clarify I am not a nutritionist or a trainer; the following is compiled from my own personal experience and articles that I have read.  Losing the amount of weight that I did was  the biggest challenge I have ever faced in life. It requires a serious long term commitment to yourself and, if you can turn it into a healthy lifestyle like I did (I still struggle with pizza and beer) then you should be able to obtain lasting results!

So lets start at the beginning. You! You are the person responsible for getting to where you're at. Take a good look in the mirror for a minute and own that. No one else is responsible for your extra pounds, your pizza binges, your late night McDonalds runs, but you! You ate the extra calories and skipped the gym one to many times. Now it's time to pay up!

Ok so now you have accepted responsibility! So we can move forward. If you want long lasting results, you must embrace these changes as lifestyle changes. Every choice you make must be towards your goal. If your goal is to diet temporarily, chances are you will regain the weight shortly after (I've done this multiple times in my life). It will not be easy. After being free to eat whatever you want whenever you want, a diet can seem restrictive and impossible at times. It's these times you have to remember where you started and where you want to be and keep moving towards it.

You need to understand and realize that it will take time.  For your body to burn excessive fat you still need to eat lots of good healthy food. If you deprive your body of the proper nutrients, it will just break down lean muscle mass, and as a result you will burn less calories in a day, shut your metabolism down, and kick your body into fat storing (starvation) mode.

So chances are, If you're still reading this far, you have a few extra pounds you’ve been wanting to get rid of. Or, maybe you're just bored and sitting at home and stumbled across this awesome web page about crazy people who run mountains (for fun) then clicked your way into this blog :) either way here’s how the magic happens:

 -Calories matter! 
You can break down a very complex subject into very simple math.. 3500 calories = 1 lb
-If you eat an extra 3500 cals - gain 1 lb
-Cut out or burn 3500 cals -lose 1 lb
(Sounds Simple right?)

* I should take a moment to clarify here, you get a choice of what you eat, you can eat your calories in chocolate and soda if you really want but you're probably not going to feel very good at the end of the day, Foods like chicken breasts, veggies, sweet potatoes and berries are low in calories and are way better choice to fill your daily caloric intake *

Your body has a number of calories that it burns by just existing. You can do a quick search and find a basic calculator for this. Here's one that I like using . Once you have this number you can decide on how many calories to cut out. Most of the calculators have an activity level set into them. Do not lie about the amount of exercise you do. The standard for safe weight loss is commonly said to be 1-2 lbs a week but I find 2 lbs to be cutting an excessive amount of nutrients causing me to feel tired all day long.  So that being said, I recommend no more than a 500 calorie deficit to start. This would give you 1 lb a week of healthy fat loss, while still allowing you to eat enough healthy food to not starve or feel empty all the time. For this process to work you can’t lie to yourself or guesstimate how many calories you're eating. Download a tracker, get a food scale, and hold yourself accountable for what you're eating. If you can't be bothered to put in the work, don't expect the results. 
A great way to start is to take your daily calories and divide it into 6 meals. This allows you to be eating all day and not having large gaps in between meals.  Eating high protein foods will keep you feeling fuller for a longer period, avoiding the spikes that come with high sugar loads. Some examples of meals/snacks I've used and still use.
Typical dinners/lunches:
1. Chicken breast (150 grams), sweet potato (100 grams),  mixed Asian style veggies (140 grams)
2. Baked salmon (150 grams), avocado (60 grams), steamed veggies, (140 grams), rice (140 grams)
3. Basa Fillet (150 grams), sweet potato (100 grams),  mixed Asian style veggies (140 grams)
4. Kale salad (no dressing, 200 grams), chicken breast (150 Grams), balsamic vinegar  (2tbsp)

*I use Frank's Red Hot Sauce and chili flakes on most dinners and lunches as it caries a nice 0 calorie balance and adds some kick and flavor. Also if you're wanting to up your fat intake 5-15 mls of extra virgin olive oil can be added as well. I have done this lots, but keep in mind that fats are calorie dense so if you're not careful you could be adding a lot of calories to your plate*

1. Oats (140 Grams cooked), Mixed berry or blueberries (140 grams), 1 scoop whey protein
2. Egg whites (140 Grams), ground chicken/turkey (100grams)
3. Whole grain toast(2 slices), all natural peanut butter (50 Grams)
4. Oats (140 grams cooked), dates-pitted (40 grams), almonds natural unsalted crushed (20 Grams)

1. Whey protein (1 scoop), 20 grams of almonds, apple-gala (approx 150 grams)
2. Mixed berry smoothie - whey protein (2 scoops), almond milk (500 mls), mixed berries/blueberries (2 cups/280grams) 
3.  Low fat yogurt (60 grams), banana (approx 145 grams), whey protein  (1 scoop)
4. Watermelon (280 Grams), almonds (20 Grams), whey protein powder (1 Scoop)
5. Chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie: whey protein (chocolate 1 scoop), almond milk (250 mls), banana (approx 70 grams), all natural peanut butter (1-2 tbsp)  

These are all just examples of the types of meals and snacks I use throughout the day. I usually eat 6-7 times. Every person has different tastes and different requirements and this is why planning is everything. Take the time to create 6 or 7 days worth of meal plans to keep it interesting. It only takes a couple hrs to put together, plus shopping is way easier. Here is a link to a food calculator that allows you to put multiple items in:

As far as macros go, everyone has a different tolerance to different levels of each macro nutrient (proteins, fats and carbs). Our body types are all different so what works for me may not work for you in terms of what your body needs. Some people have a high metabolism and can eat a higher value of carbs in a day while others have a slower metabolism, and may need to cut back on carbs to lose weight. I recommend doing a quick test for your body type and setting up your macros based on that as a starting point, and then fine tuning it later. Here is a link to a test that can help determine your body type, and also has some great basic information on the 3 main body types

Myfitnesspal is a great App/Website to use since it allows you to set macro nutrient goals, and it's easy to adjust the percentages to fine tune your daily values. It may take some time to get used to, but in the end knowing what you're eating can greatly affect the way you eat, and your views on what you're actually getting from your favorite foods.
Even if you don't want to do full on meal prep, planning ahead, calculating, pre-weighing and measuring out foods into containers makes it easier to stay on track during the week even with a busy schedule. Make your diet easy and stress free so that you stick with it.

Don't let others influence you. It's your body. It's your goal! If you give into the pressure from friends, family or coworkers, you are only setting yourself back. If you always give in, you will derail your own efforts and inevitably give up because you're not getting the results you wanted.

Diet really is the key to success but exercise is also important, even 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a week of cardio can help a lot. And don’t rule out strength training if hitting the weights is something you like doing! By all means, lift all the weights... just don’t pig out on pizza afterwards!

Anyways, that is how I did it, and the fundamentals of changing your lifestyle. Keep in mind the internet is a great resource for information if you're looking for more in-depth information about macro splits or counting calories. I have used MyFitnessPal and Lose It (both good programs) but there are lots more out there, and most have a free option with all the features to get you on the road to success!

Also a huge thanks needs to go out to my beautiful fiancĂ© Robyn, who helps me every weekend with my monster food prep program.  And to all my friends, family and co-workers whose positive words and encouragement kept me and keep me going to this day.  I love you all and couldn’t have done it without you!

My journey is not complete and maybe never be as I continue to push on and see just how far I can go.  So get on with it and never look back!! Thanks for reading!
Cheers!  BigBearRunning!

Monday, July 2, 2018

2018 Tenderfoot Boogie 50 Miler - Race Report

The tenderfoot boogie was not on my bucket list by any means, it more or less fit my time/distance requirements in training for the FatDog 70 mile in August. I didn't know anybody that had run this race, so I really didn't know what to expect. The course looked fun on the map but I was in uncharted territory, sourcing info from old race reviews from runners in previous years. I spent the week before carefully planning out my drop bags and figured I had everything I would need to make it to the finish. I spent most of the night before panicking as I read through less than positive race reports from various different blogs and web pages, playing out different scenarios in my head. The race start was at 5am in Squamish so bedtime came early. I had no more time, I was packed and ready to go and the rest would have to be left in the hands of fate.

Race day morning 
-3am- loaded the car and drove from Vancouver to Squamish (~1 hr), eating breakfast along the way. We followed directions right off the website and found several people with bags and gear sitting at the steps of a closed coffee shop. I asked someone if this was the start of the 50 mile and they replied "I hope so" then a couple people showed up with a table and started setting up a place sign in. A few more runners were rolling in by then. I signed in and put my drop bags in their piles.

-4:30am- I needed to use the bathroom; I asked around but it appeared that there was no facilities. It looked like people were going and using the bushes across the road in the park so I followed suit. 

-4:45am- the race director gathered everyone in the street and spoke about some recent changes to the course and how to navigate through the first section. It seemed pretty straight forward, the course was supposed to be flagged with orange and black ribbon at every're thinking "how hard can this be? Right?
Tenderfoot Boogie Elevation Profile
-5am- The race started and everyone (about 26 racers) took off down the road.
Now, this is the longest distance race I've run so I was unsure about how to pace. All the big hills were at the end of the course so I figured I was best to just settle in at the back and take it easy. This worked well as we made our way through the streets. I chatted with another runner who had run the course before. He seemed to know all the hidden corners and we went on about 5 miles to a spot where he could have sworn the course went through the previous year but there was no flagging anywhere. We wandered around looking for a flag, by then about 8 people were all around this intersection trying to decide which way to go. I tried to use the gps map I had downloaded into my Suunto the night before but another racer informed me that the course had been changed last minute and none of the maps online were accurate anymore, and to not follow it. I tried to back out of the navigation but ended up cancelling the trail run instead. I then had to restart my watch, knowing that my time and distance would be off for the rest of the race. By this point some of the other runners had taken different roads and kept running, trying to find flagging. A girl on a mtn bike came flying down the one trail informing us that the ribbons had been "taken down." We ran up the road and yelled back to the other racers that we had found the proper route. We then continued on this route until the first aid station. By this point I was mad because all the reviews I had read had indicated the course was very poorly marked, and they were not wrong! Was this going to be my whole day?

Aid Station #1 - As I approached I saw a small table with not much on it - a few pretzels, 6 or 7 cookies, 2 or 3 pieces of  fruit (banana/orange), a bowl of candies and a 10L jug of water. The man behind the table almost didn't even seem happy to be there, I had lots of water and food in my pack so I just grabbed 3 candies and went on my way. Shortly after there was a section of overgrowth that no one bothered to clear out and a huge road deactivation to climb around. The trail then bacame a PowerLine cut that was overgrown and looked more like a garbage dump in places than a trail. It was barely flagged but there wasn't anywhere to get off course so I just pushed on.

The next section went back onto the highway. Finally there was flagging, an arrow tied from a pole to the bottom of the cement barrier that looked exactly like it was indicating to continue on the highway, so I did. About 500 meters up the highway I caught a glimpse of an orange ribbon in the bushes now down about 20 meters from the road. I continued up the highway scanning the ditch until I saw another flag off to the left that looked more like a trail so I had to jump the barrier and descend the embankment through the prickly bushes and jump a puddle to get back on track. I thought to myself "minor setback, no need to stress", but 3 minutes later I found myself once again searching for the elusive black/orange flagging tape. I followed the trail right back to the highway, finally turning around and heading back only to find more people coming my way. I asked them if they had seen a ribbon lately, but we found ourselves once again searching the trails for markings. I could go on forever about non existent trail markings but for the sake of not having a very long post, I will simplify it for you:
- If you don't know this course be very prepared to get lost 
- There are lots of sections with inadequately spaced flags or hard to see flags (some even tied on pebbles on the side of the road) which is confusing when you are trying to keep a pace and pay attention to a trail. 
- There are sections of the trail that are more like orienteering where you have to stop, take bearings spin around in circles and find the next flag, then you walk to that one and repeat.
- After the last aid station the course goes through a mountain bike system with trails everywhere and not a flag to be seen. To top it all off, for the last 3 km they not only had spacing issues but decided to change the color of the flagging... WHY?!
- The flags they used are the same color as old construction flagging in places 

Okay, now that's out of the way we proceed into the first nice section of trail to run. It was a great single track path that had some elevation to it - that was a nice change as most of the race so far seemed like it was on the road. We then got to a section that looked like an old blast site. I scaled over all the boulders looking around trying to make sense of where the trail went all the while trying not to trip and die. There was even one section with an old steep wood staircase missing 4-5 of the steps so you had to jump down and try not to break your ankle. I made a joke to another runner about how I forgot to pack my rock climbing gear. Just as I finished my sentence, a helicopter flew over, and he didn't miss a beat replying "there goes the helicopter, still searching for last year's DNFs." We both laughed as the trail popped out on yet another road. I'm going to pause here to talk about the road.

Sections of this course are long stretches right on the side of the sea to sky highway. They have no volunteers handing out safety vests, or even signs letting traffic know there is a race in progress. You are left to run yourself down the side of a major highway with cars whizzing past at 100km/hr+. You have the option to try to run the narrow soft shoulder behind the barrier or just suck it up and hammer on right down the highway. Pair that with a serious lack of flagging, sounds incredible, Right?

Aid Station #2 - This aid station had our first drop bags! I made the decision to change into different shoes, they were softer and better for on the road. This was the probably the best decision I made all day. As I was changing my shoes one of the volunteers went to fill my water but informed me they could only fill it with a bit as they were running low on water. WHAT!? I couldn't believe it, they told me that the next aid station was only 10 km away though. This aid station had the same limited stuff as the first one, good thing I packed my drop bag with lots of goodies! The volunteers here were amazing and helped in every way they could! All fueled up, it was back to the trails! Or in this case a long gravel road. Then highway again... it was a pretty boring stretch.

Aid Station #3 - As I rolled into this one, I ran into some of the runners that I was chatting with at the beginning. They asked me how I got behind them and if I had been lost. I laughed and said "I'm not even sure how I made it this far, I've been lost so many times" and laughed.  I asked for a water refill and the man behind the table looked horrified and asked how long I had been without water. I explained that the previous station was running out of water. He filled my water back up and I headed back out. My stomach was acting up now, I needed a bathroom. I had hoped one of the aid stations may have an outhouse but as it turns out there is only one bathroom on course and its 50 km into the race. Normally I would have resorted to the woods but the next section was up the side of a cliff and didn't have anywhere to even go... then it was more of you guessed it... Highway! Where are you supposed to use the washroom on the side of a highway?! It was an uncomfortable run to the Brandywine Falls aid station. 

Aid Station #4 - Finally a semi-decent looking aid station, paired with a bathroom! I dropped my bag and yelled my number as I ran for the can (probably the fastest I had run in the first 50km). I went back to the table and stuffed my face with boiled potatoes and chips. The volunteers filled my water pack while I grabbed my electrolyte from my drop bag, filled my bottles up, grabbed some candy worms and headed on back out on the trail. This section of trail is actually very nice, there were lots of people hiking that cheered runners on and were quite motivating. Now, I believe that there was supposed to be one more aid station that was removed at the last minute, so this section would be a 16 km stretch to the next station at 64km. It was a nice section of trail, a wide gravel path in most places and easy to run on... minus the obvious lack of flagging and constant "am I lost" sensation growing inside your head. I was having stomach issues again and had to take several bathroom stops. After passing another runner 3 times and chatting about my issues he offered me some Imodium. This cleared everything up (and probably saved my day... THANK YOU!). Time was looking good -  I figured I was going to clear the cutoff for the next aid station, my legs weren't hurting at all and somehow I was still keeping a semi-decent pace. A few more minor flagging setbacks in this section... one even involved a trail that looked like it was a river crossing, but I didn't remember seeing any river crossings listed. I instead opted to hike up onto the highway, playing frogger across 4 lanes and eventually finding flagging on the other side. I climbed back over the guard rail and down the other side to get back on the course

Aid Station #5 - I stumbled upon a table on the side of the trail with people cheering on the side.
I pretty much was headed straight for the table checking my watch to make sure I was still under the cutoff when I realized... Wait! I know these people! It was my sister and her husband. The sun was out by this point and the last couple hrs had been hot, I was a little out of it, but immediately ran over and hugged my sister. They had come bearing more food than the aid stations, with a cooler full of ginger ale and a domino's pizza and even an Iced Cap! The two of them being well seasoned racers sat me down in a chair and grabbed my pack, making sure I had everything I needed while they filled my water and checked my food supply! With a full pack and a full stomach I headed out on the last 10 miles of the race! Now this was supposed to be the "Big Climb" that everyone was talking about which looks intense on the profile but actually is quite a nice trail. My legs were still feeling strong - I even found myself running up sections of the hill. The hill finally crested and the descent was on! This section is in the mtn bike trails of Whistler so you have to watch out for bikes flying around everywhere. The bonus to this being that in sections it is soft dirt and there are berms on all the corners making fast almost enjoyable! I was gaining energy by the minute I knew the end was near, and I was going to make it!

Goofing Around for Finish Line Pics!

Aid Station #6 - I yelled out my race number as I grabbed 3 or 4 candies. I asked the volunteer how far it was and he said under 5 km to the finish. I said thanks and as I started to run he yelled "do you have enough water?" I took off thinking to myself "at this point who cares?! it's 5km" I ran off into the next section of bike park. I passed a few more people in this section enjoying the nice dirt bike trails. For some reason that I can't quite figure out,  they decided to change the flagging color in this section from orange and black to blue and white. By this point I had given up on even trying to find the flags, and I just stayed on what looked like the right trail, eventually popping out on a nice paved path in what looked like a residential area.  I knew I was close now. As I pushed forward down this path, a girl on a bike rode past me and looked back then stopped. I thought maybe I hit her with my pole, until she smiled and asked me if I was running a race. I told her I was and that it had started in Squamish at 5am. She informed me that I was within 2 km of the finish line and asked if she could ride to the finish line with me. I had been running for over 11 hrs by now so I wasn't going to decline! We chatted and she told me all about whistler almost like a tour guide as we wound down the path. As we rounded the last corner I thanked her for talking with me as I took off.

First 50 Mile Finish!
My adrenaline glands must have exploded when I saw the finish line and released a pre-workout size dose of energy throughout me.  I crossed the finish line at 11:32:06. I wandered around with my head spinning in the hot sun, the race director came over and gave me my finisher medal and shook my hand. I thanked him and went over to find my sister, drop my race pack, and jump (I ended up slipping on a rock and falling) into the beautiful cold water. I went to get some food from the BBQ but there was pretty much nothing left.. surprise surprise. I got a burger patty, a smokey, and a bun at least - but all the fixings and drinks had been cleaned out. They didn't even have water left (which amazes me because there was still racers left on course) overall I was just happy to have completed my longest distance run to date and a great training race!

It was sunny and beautiful in Whistler! There are great views from Meadows park and it is a nice place to end a race. I did spend most of the day angry and frustrated as I believe this race needs a whole lot more planning, but at the end of the day it was still a fun experience!