Monday, October 13, 2014

WhistleStop Marathon - Race Report

Immediately after getting home this past May following my first ever DNF (Did Not Finish) at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, Sarah started looking for a secondary option for my opportunity to run a sub 3 hour marathon.  I had entered the GB Marathon with a pre-existing calf issue, but at least tried to run a full marathon regardless.  I made it just 17 miles of the 26.2 mile race.  I was pretty bummed, but not really surprised that I didn't finish.  I was more surprised that I made it 17 miles than I was that I had to pull out prior to crossing the finish line.  After Sarah and I got home, I started to unpack all my stuff and then jumped in the shower.  After I got out, Sarah had already found a redemption race for me...The WhistleStop Marathon in Ashland, WI on October 11th.  After she told me about it, I was as excited and optimistic, if not more, as I was earlier in the year before my calf issue arose.  The race website claims the event to be a "smaller, runner friendly event, with a course that is flat, easy on the knees, and the one on which you can set your PR or qualify for Boston."  I was sold immediately.  I then continued to read up on the course a little more and found that it was run almost solely on an old rail road trestle, that has since become a gravel/sand recreational trail, called the Tri-County Corridor.  The race was prominently flat with a net downhill course.  The course was a point to point race starting 26 miles west of Ashland at a resort in Iron River, WI.  The race starts with a short 1 mile jaunt south on a paved road before getting on the trail.  Not only was this a simple, runner friendly course, it appeared to be a super easy marathon to spectate.  The trail runs directly East/West along major highways and has several cross roads the intersect both the trail and the highways.

It not only sounded like a perfect course for me, but the timing was ideal too.  The race was exactly 9 weeks after the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships.  That would leave me one week to lay low and recovery from a long stretch of triathlon training before jumping right into an 8 week marathon specific training program.  I had already taken that weekend off for Maya's birthday weekend, so my work schedule was not an issue.  Sarah's parents have a cabin (that I have talked about before) in Cayuga, which is about a 30 minute drive south of Ashland.  So there really was no reason not to do this race.  As you could imagine, it didn't take long for me to be convinced that this was "THE" race for me to set my marathon PR and redeem myself from my first ever DNF.  I jumped online and registered that day, the same day I posted my DNF.  We made immediate plans with both my family and Sarah's family to make a long weekend of it and spend the weekend in Cayuga, and hopefully celebrate my new Marathon PR with Maya's impending birthday (on the 13th).  Or so I thought....

Training for This Race

This year was the year for cookie cutter training programs.  Every single year prior to this race season, I created my own custom, personalized, specific training program.  But this year, I opted to scour the internet for training programs.  I did this for a couple reasons (or excuses).  One, I wanted some new workouts opposed to the usual workouts I would schedule myself.  Two, I was a little lost when designing a program specific for Sprint distance triathlons.  Three, I was looking for a marathon specific program that would theoretically prepare me adequately for a 2:59:59 or faster marathon.  So, I utilized Runner World's free Smart Coach feature which allows you to create a "custom" training program based on a previous race result.  I entered my half marathon time from this past April of 1:24:31 and scheduled my race date to be 8 weeks out with an average weekly mileage of 40-45.  It spit out a weekly training program with prescribed paces for each workout.  The program had me running 4 days a week; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and a long run on Sunday.  Below is a link to a PDF file of my training program. 

In general, my training was spot on.  I was hitting all my weekly mileage and my prescribed paces.  I was feeling great throughout my entire training plan and was seeming to progress rather nicely.  Typically, every Friday was a speed or tempo themed workout.  My first speed workout was a 7 mile run consisting of 4 mile repeats which I did at my local track.  It was during my last interval that I felt a similar tightness in my left calf.  I finished my interval (stupid?) and proceeded to take an extra day off to insure proper recovery.  I proceeded to train through the tightness, at the direction of my apparently newly appointed "coach," Sarah.  I proceeded to make my next long run of 18 miles and just dealt with the tightness, but it never became such and issue where it hindered my run.  All of long runs and most of my daily runs were done on local trails.  I did this with the belief that it would better prepare my legs for the softer running surface of the Marathon.  I ran on either the Wiouwash Trail or the Friendship Trail for most of my runs.  My last long run was run on the Fox River Trail, South of Green Bay.  I think this decision was as beneficial for my mental strength as it was for my running fitness, due to the simplicity of just running out and back for 10-20 miles at a time.  Doing this forced myself to remain focused on my breathing, heart rate, feeling in my legs, and just listening to my body opposed to relying on the constant changing scenery or constant turning of city running.


I was fortunate enough to have off of work for most of the week leading up to the Marathon.  My last night at work was on Saturday (into Sunday) October, 4th.  I was then off Sunday through Wednesday.  On Wednesday night I made a Ginger Beef Stir-Fry for dinner and didn't think anything of it...  Until 12:30am that nigh, when Sarah and I were both woken up by Delaney screaming and crying.  We both immediately thought she had wet the bed.  Sarah went in to check on her and found that she had thrown up in bed.  Within the next hour, Sarah was now puking.  By 4:30am, Maya was now up throwing up. the entire family will be struck down by the flu for the next 3-4 days and my hopes of running in the WhistleStop Marathon were going to be taken out by the flu.  For whatever reason, I felt completely fine throughout the remainder of the night and woke up at 6:00am for my final training run before the race.  I was scheduled to have SWAT Training from 8a-4p on Thursday and made it through the day with no stomach issues, even though my stomach never felt "right."  Sarah ended up staying home from work on Thursday and all three girls just laid on the couch all day randomly puking throughout the morning.  As the day progressed, however, the vomiting stopped and all three of them felt relatively better.  After I got home from SWAT, I packed up the car and Sarah decided that they all felt well enough to make the 4 hour trip to the Northwoods.  We were on the road for Cayuga by 6:00.  Maya and Sarah were both asleep within the first 15 minutes of our drive, while Delaney stayed awake for the entire trip.  We finally made it to the cabin minutes before 10pm and were unpacked and in bed around midnight.  By the time we arrived, all three girls were feeling somewhat normal, albeit, tired and sore.  We never really figured out if they had a form of stomach flu or a type of food poisoning from the stir-fry.  I opted to sleep apart from Sarah and the girls in case they had the flu.

On Friday, I just laid low around the cabin, colored in Maya's coloring book, did some word searches, and watched some TV.  I ate my scheduled menu for Friday, which was a pretty simple diet with all easily digestible foods and nothing new....and definitely no Ginger Beef Stir-Fry.  At 3:30 I drove up to Ashland for the packet pick-up, which was about as simple as they come.  I picked up my packet and walked through the couple of vendors that were selling their end of year gear and was back on the road heading back to the cabin within a half hour.  After getting back to the cabin, I ate my dinner and hung out with the gang before heading over to my mom and dad's cabin for the night.  My parents made the trip up north for the weekend that Friday night and got into town around 5:00.  They rented a cabin for the weekend on Gordon Lake, which was about a 15 minute drive south of the my in-law's cabin.  I was in bed around 8:30pm and was asleep before 9pm.

Keeping busy with crayons

My morning breakfast
That morning I woke up around 4:45am to a fresh brewed pot of Hammer Nutrition's 53x11 Organic Chain Breaker Coffee.  I ate a sweet potato with Justin's Almond Butter and a Tbsp of natural local honey at 5:30 and left for the race around 6:00.  I found a great parking spot and hung out in the Ashland Ice Arena for a little while before boarding the first bus to the start line of the full marathon at 7:00.  The bus ride was relaxing and took about 25-30 minutes.  The start line was located on East Long Lake Rd just outside of the Tri-Lake Timbers Resort.  The resort opened their bar/dinning area up for runners to hang out and stay warm.  The weather at the time we arrived at the start line was about 30 degrees.  The bar was a nice place to sit and just relax.  They served free coffee for runners and hand made bloody mary's for the family members of runners.  With about 20 minutes before the start of the race, I made my way outside and did an easy warm up consisting of various dynamic movements, such as leg kicks, lunges, and skips, all intermixed with very light jogging.

A view looking left from the start line...gorgeous!

Nutrition Plan

What I had planned for my race nutrition plan and what I actually did throughout the race were two completely different things.  I won't dive into what I ended up doing on race day here, as I will let you read the actual report for that, I will just stay with what I had planned to follow on race day.  So, I already discussed what I ate and drank for my pre-race breakfast after waking up that morning.  I then continued to sip on my 53x11 Organic Coffee throughout the morning during the bus ride to the start line.  At 8am, 1 hour before the race, I took, 2 Anti-Fatigue Caps, 2 Race Caps Supreme, 1 Mito Caps, and 1 Endurolyte.  During the race my plan was to take a Hammer Gel at miles 3.9, 7.9, 12.2, 16, and 21.6.  Doing this would provide me a total of 450 calories or about 150 calories per hour.  My preferred flavor for the WhistleStop Marathon was the new Peanut Butter-Chocolate, which is seriously, the best flavor gel I have had.  Throughout the race, I was planning on taking 2 Anti-Fatigue Caps at miles 10 and then at 20.  I also had several Energy Surge tabs and Endurolytes to take as needed throughout the race.  My plan was simple and had worked for me throughout all of long runs in training.  To carry my pills and capsules, I bought a pack of 2.5"x3" resealable plastic bags which would keep my pills dry and separated without taking up a lot space.


Cheap, knee-high socks with the toe cut out to throw away during the race
Cheap, knit gloves that I can also throw away during the race

Miles 0-6.2

My Splits:
1 - 6:51
2 - 6:39
3 - 6:44
4 - 6:48
5 - 6:39
6 - 6:42

I was feeling really good and confident leading up to the start of the race.  I really felt as though I was going to be able to nail my goal of running a sub 3:00 marathon.  I was running with my Garmin, but turned off all alerts and alarms.  I set the screen to just show distance.  I did not want to become overly concerned with what pace I was running.  I wanted to truly focus in on myself and listen to my body.  I had read several articles on the benefits of not running with a GPS watch, and I bought into it.  My plan was to run the first 4-6 miles at a moderate pace, build up to a more intense pace for miles 7-20 and then run as fast as possible for the final 10k.  As I mentioned earlier, the first mile or so, was on an asphalt road leading south to the Tri-County Corridor.  I ran at what I felt was a comfortable relaxed pace for the first 10k.  I was feeling really good.  I was getting slightly annoyed with the trail surface however, but was expecting this.  The WhistleStop staff did make us aware of the current trail conditions leading up to the race in their regular email updates.  Due to the above average rain fall all summer and fall, they experienced areas of the trail that were slightly washed out.  They also warned of larger rocks throughout the first 6 miles of the trail.  What I was not expecting was the sandiness of the trail.  Throughout most of the race, but especially during the initial 10k, we were all moving from side to side of the trail just trying to find the most secure footing along the trail.  There were sections of the trail which reminded me of running on beaches with how sandy and soft the surface was.  There were some sections of the trail which had large rocks, some the size of baseballs, which I was not anticipating.  I first saw my support group (Sarah with the girls, my mother and father in-law, my parents, Sarah's sister, Lisa, and Andy's wife, Lindsay with her boys.  Shortly after passing my fans, the runners around me started calling my "Uncle Matt" and commented on how loud and great my crowd was, I just smiled and said they are the best.

Miles 7-13.1

My Splits:
7 - 6:35
8 - 6:47
9 - 6:44
10 - 6:57
11 - 6:38
12 - 6:39
13 - 6:55

After crossing the first 10k mark, I was feeling really good.  I honestly felt as though I was running about a 6:55-7:00/mile average.  After the race, as I was looking at my splits, I was well below that, averaging close to a 6:45/mile average.  The trail conditions continued to remain constant - Sandy and rocky in spots.  I took my second gel at mile 7.9 and was feeling really well.  I was constantly asking myself, "how do you feel?" and "how will the pace effect me at miles 20-26.2?"  I knew I still had a long race ahead and was convinced I was not going to blow up and fall apart during the second half.  Literally a mile or two before the 13 mile marker I started getting terrible stomach cramps.  They felt like knives stabbing me in my sides, they made it difficult to breath.  I was determined not to let that effect my race.  I immediately began to start thinking a mile ahead of where I was in the race.  I wanted to stay ahead of the game and make sure my plan would set me up for success, not make matters worse.  I skipped my third gel that I was scheduled to take at mile 12.2 with hopes that my cramps were being caused by my nutrition.  I did take my Anti-Fatigue Caps at mile 10 as I was scheduled to.

Miles 14-20

My Splits:
14 - 7:17
15 - 7:41
16 - 7:01
17 - 7:33
18 - 7:11
19 - 8:47
20 - 7:24

Just by looking at those splits you can tell something went wrong.  As usual, I completely fell apart after crossing the 13.1 marker.  My stomach cramps never went away, in fact they got worse, much worse.  It got to the point were I felt as though I was going to puke.  I actually regurgitated a bit several times and just swallowed it back down (sorry for being descriptive).  I knew that regardless of how I was feeling I needed to take some calories in to keep moving forward.  I took my third gel at mile 16 and it didn't feel good going down.  I tried to continue taking in water, but I could still feel everything just sloshing around in my belly.  I knew at this point a 2:59 was probably not going to happen.  I was still going to do my best to continue moving forward with hopes of a marathon PR (sub 3:03).  Due to my persistent stomach issues, I was forced to walk more and more, as is evident by my splits.  My race turned into a mile by mile survival in stead of cranking it up during the second half as I had planned to do.  I skipped taking my second dose of Anti-Fatigue Caps at mile 20

Miles 21-26.2

My Splits
21 - 8:00
22 - 8:59
23 - 8:31
24 - 9:05
25 - 8:42
26 - 9:48

The final 10k was not at all what I had hoped it would be.  My breathing became noticeably more and more labored and my stomach issues were getting worse.  I was burping more and more and doing my best to not throw up.  I never took my 4th or 5th gels, nor did I take any of my Energy Surge tablets or Endurolytes for fear that they would put me over the edge and make me throw up, and make my shitty day even worse.  I was now walking a couple times every mile.  It reminded me a lot of how I felt through most of my Ironman Marathon.  It seemed like no matter how slow I would run, my heart rate would skyrocket and I would be out of breath and the only thing that would counter this would be to walk.  It was frustrating and painful.  It's a terrible feeling knowing that you're not going to come close to your goals and there was nothing you can do about it.  It was the same old song and dance for me.  Run a strong half marathon, feel great throughout the first half and then crash hard and burn throughout the next 13.1 miles.  I did make it a point to run when ever in eye shot of my family.  I felt as though I owed it to them, not to look like I was struggling - no matter how much I hurt or how frustrated I was.  I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:16:28 (7:30/mile average pace) which put me in 28th overall (of 379 finishers) and 4th in my age group (of 30 finishers).

Post Race

Immediately after crossing the finish line, I just wanted to catch my breath.  My breathing had been very labored for the past 13 miles and my stomach felt like it had several knives stabbing me from every which way.  I quickly made my way through the finisher's chute, got my space blanket and medal and found a quiet spot off to the side and just caught my breath.  Within seconds of finding a quiet spot to rest, Maya ran up to me and gave me a huge hug, it was exactly what I needed.  It made me so happy.  I immediately took off my medal and gave it to her.  Sarah found me shortly after Maya did and she was probably just as frustrated as I was with the day.  I made my way to the post race tent to claim my finisher's jacket, which is a really nice, white jacket with a stitched in WhistleStop logo and the word FINISHER printed along the right sleeve.  The jacket is easily one of the best post race give-aways, if not THE best I have received from a race.  The jacket is a quality jacket and one that I will actually wear, especially this fall.  I made my way through the post race food tent as well, but nothing even looked remotely appealing.  I just grabbed two containers of unsweetened apple sauce.  I ate them slowly and was able to hold them down.  The was the only thing I ate until I had a beer :) at South Shore Brewery in Ashland.  Even if I wasn't feeling up for a beer, I was going to force myself to drink one, as I was looking forward to having my traditional post race brew, especially at one of my favorite little brew pubs.  I ordered a light tasting Apple Ale which actually hit the spot pretty nicely.  Right after most of the gang sucked down a beer we all hit the road back to the cabin to make the most of the remainder of the afternoon.  We had a big cook out and sat around a fire for the rest of a nearly perfect, cool, crisp fall day in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

Finisher's Jacket and Medal
My post race beer at South Shore Brewery

The race itself, as I look back on it, was an awesome race.  As I mentioned above, if I were to make on complaint it would be the quality of the running surface.  For majority of the race, the trail surface was much softer and sandier than I had expected and frankly, more than desired.  The course was uber scenic and there was rarely a section of the course that wasn't picturesque.  There were large gorges with large wooden trestles.  The fall colors were at their peak throughout the entire area.  I would highly recommend running this race, if you are able to make the trip to Ashland.  Just expect the course to be run on a sand/gravel covered trail.  If you are able to accept this fact, its a race that I guarantee you will enjoy and not regret.
A view of the course

The Day in Music

I'm going to try doing something new here.  I want to just put a song up that I feel summarizes my race.  I am a huge believer in the power of music, not only to motivate, but to tell a story, effect emotions, or even inspire.  I won't go into any details as to why I chose the song I did, and will leave that up to your own interpretation.  So, for my first crack at this, I have chosen "Takes Me Nowhere," by The Offspring.

What's on Tap

How lucky am I to have such a great support crew!!
This one was tough.  I had high expectations and really thought I was going to be successful.  I went into this race more confident, more optimistic, and honestly, more arrogance than any other race to date.  As I sit here writing my race report, just 2 days after finishing over 16 minutes longer than my goal, I am left with feelings of failure, guilt, and more questions that I just don't have the answers to.  I feel like I failed, I have no idea why, or how, but I failed.  Don't get me wrong, finishing a marathon in 3:16 is still nothing to scoff at and honestly, I am happy with finishing in the time that I did, but, still, I know what I am capable of, or at least think I know what I'm capable of.  And, 3:16 is NOT the peak of my abilities.  I feel guilty for having my awesome family make the trip up north to watch me to just fall short of my goal.  I feel like I not only let myself down, but let them down.  They all knew my goals and aspirations.  They knew how bad I wanted it, so when I finished in 3:16, I felt like the 4 hour drive up North was all for naught.  I feel as though I am carrying the burden of a weekend of something better to do, than watch me struggle through yet another marathon.  I wonder how much longer I will continue to get the best support of any other runner on the course, before my support group says, "you know, we have something better to do..."  Finally, I am left with numerous thoughts just racing through my head.  I wonder why I can't put together a strong marathon.  Am I running too much?  Should I be running at a higher weekly mileage?  Is my nutrition as dialed in as I thought?  Do I need to just step away?  Should I run more?  Do I need to reevaluate my goals and abilities?  Is a sub 3 marathon realistic?

To her, I'm the worlds greatest runner

The more I sit here and think about it, I am torn.  I don't know where to go.  Almost immediately after I finished this race, Sarah looked at me and didn't offer any words of accomplishment, apathy, or congratulations.  She simply looked at me with a disappointed face and said, "maybe you just need to step away for a year."  I'll be honest, it pissed me off, it wasn't really what I wanted to hear at that moment in time.  But, that's my wife, she's very strong, and bull headed.  She doesn't sugar coat anything.  Frankly, she has every right to share her emotions with me.  She has made just as many sacrifices throughout the years for me to race and train, so I would be foolish to think she owes me anything.  But those words stuck with me, and still stick in my mind.  I wonder if maybe she's right, or if she was just speaking out of frustration from watching me train so hard just to continuously fall short.  I honestly don't know what to think at this point.  I know I want to run a sub 3 hour marathon more than anything.  I know that I am unwilling to just give up.  I am not a quitter, I will not give up, nor will I accept my mediocrity.  I don't know what it will take for me to accept the fact that running a 2:59 marathon just might not be in my deck of cards.  What I do know, is how I feel right now, as I sit here sore as hell, writing this report.  I feel frustrated, angry, and a desire inside that is burning bigger and hotter than ever.  I am motivated, driven, and unwilling to quit.  I may have numerous other goals (just check out my bucket list), but none are more meaningful or more important that running 26.2 miles in under 3 hours.  Right now, today, I am here to say I will most likely be running another marathon, hopefully early this spring.  I think I am going to set aside my cycling and swimming fitness to focus on my running, if that's what it is going to take, that is what I shall do.  I will train like a runner....not a triathlete.  I will add strength training to my program to strength up my legs to better withstand the torture they endure over the course of a marathon.  I will continue to refocus my diet and continue to pursue my desired body composition.  Ultimately, I will run a 2:59 marathon.  Mark my words.  

So what right now, the immediate future?  I do need a break, I am not a fool.  I need to recharge both physically AND mentally.  I am taking a week or two off from working out and possibly 3-4 weeks off from running.  I want to get in some yoga, strength training, swimming, and cycling before the snow starts to fall.  So until then, I will continue to stay up to date with my blog, so stay tuned!

Thanks as always for following my journey throughout yet another successful race season!  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Maya at 5

Maya's birthday is today, which means Sarah and I have a 5 year old.  Hmmm.... that still seems surreal to me.  To think that I not only am a father of 3 beautiful girls, but my oldest is now 5.  This past year was a big one for her.  For starters, she completed pre-school at the YMCA with ease and then started 5-day a week 4k at an elementary school in Kimberly.  She has become very proficient with letters, spelling basic words, and absolutely loves reading books with her mamma.  She continues to become more and more creative each and everyday and has quite the imagination.  This late summer she officially learned to ride her bike without training wheels!  One of her best attributes is her desire to please others.  She is always more than willing to help her mom and dad with her baby sister or even with small household chores.

This year, I will be starting a new tradition of doing a simple 50 question interview with each of our kids on their birthdays.  I figure this will be a fun project to do with each of the girls on their birthday and a neat way to look back on how they change from year to year as they grow even older.

  1. FAVORITE COLOR?  Purple 
  2. FAVORITE TOY?  Cheerleader pompoms  
  5. FAVORITE FRUIT?  Cantaloupe  
  7. FAVORITE BREAKFAST?  Mush (Oatmeal)  
  8. FAVORITE CEREAL?  The one with marshmallows (Lucky Charms)
  9. FAVORITE LUNCH?  Spaghetti  
  10. FAVORITE DINNER?  Pumpkin soup
  11. FAVORITE DRINK?  Chocolate Milk  
  12. FAVORITE SNACK?  Fruit snacks
  13. FAVORITE DESSERT?  Ice cream
  15. FAVORITE TV SHOW?  Sofia the First
  16. FAVORITE MOVIE?  Frozen 
  18. FAVORITE SONG?  Let it Go
  19. FAVORITE SINGER/BAND?  Strawberry Shortcake, 'cuz in one episode, they're a band
  20. FAVORITE BOOKS?  The Princess Book with all kinds of princess stories 
  21. FAVORITE BOOK SERIES?  Pinkalicious Books 
  22. FAVORITE OUTFIT?  My long dress 
  23. FAVORITE GAME?  The Princess Cupcake Game 
  24. FAVORITE SPORT?  Running (I couldn't be more proud right now)
  25. FAVORITE ANIMAL?  Baby kittens
  26. FAVORITE PLACE TO GO?  Chuck-E-Chesse
  28. FAVORITE SUBJECT?  School  
  29. FAVORITE STUFFED ANIMAL?  Hip and Hop (blanket rabbit animals) 
  31. FAVORITE MONTH?  When it's Halloween (I suppose October)
  32. FAVORITE SEASON?  Summer
  33. FAVORITE HOLIDAY?  Christmas
  34. FAVORITE THING MOMMY DOES?  Clean the house for us
  35. FAVORITE THING DADDY DOES?  Cook us dinner
  37. FAVORITE MEMORY?  Going to Chicago
  38. WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND?  Grayson ("A girl at my school")
  39. WHO DO YOU LIKE TO PLAY WITH?  Bradyn (Cousin) 
  40. WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?  When people say nice words to me 
  41. WHAT SCARES YOU?  Monsters
  42. WHAT MAKES YOU SAD?  When I can't go outside and play if I wanted to, like when it's raining
  43. WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR?  A Barbie that can sing by itself
  44. WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO GO?  Bradyn's house  
  46. WHAT ARE YOU REALLY GOOD AT?  Writing my name
  48. DISLIKES?  When it's cold outside

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What I've Learned Since Becoming a Parent

This upcoming Monday I will have been a Dad for 5 years.  Kinda hard to believe, when I think about it.  I still remember getting the phone call one snowy morning on my way to a Triathlon Training Camp when Sarah told me she was pregnant.  I was struck with a thousand emotions - joy, anxiousness, excitement, and fear just to name a few.  It's not like Sarah's pregnancy came out of no where.  We were definitely trying to get pregnant.  We felt we were as ready as ever.  But at 24 (at the time we found out), I started having second thoughts.  Did we really do everything we wanted to before we started our family?  Were we financially ready to have kids?  Will I be a good Dad?  Was I truly ready?

But here we are, 5 years later, and honestly, I can't even imagine my life without my daughters.  I look back over the past years and sure it may only be five years, but my life has completely changed.  I am no where near where I thought I would be.  So much has changed.  I am now 30, after marrying my High School Sweetheart, we have 3 daughters, a dog, 2 cats, and 2 guinea pigs....all in a 3 bedroom, 1,200 sq ft house.  Sarah has been at job in Green Bay for 8 years, while I have had 2 completely opposite careers, a Fitness Director and now a Police Officer (yea, never saw that one).  None-the-less, the decisions we have made over the years, have grown and shaped myself and my family directly to where we are today.  A common interview question I have faced over the years is, "What is your biggest regret in life?"  I have answered this question the same every time.  I often feel as though the interviewer thinks I am avoiding the question, or taking the easy way around the question, but I respond the same way every single time - "I honestly have no regrets.  Each and every decision I have made throughout my life has shaped my life to be exactly what it is today, and honestly, I would have it no other way.  Instead of sitting and regretting on decisions I choose to learn from them and accept them."  Now, as I sit here, a father of 3, a husband, I am sharing some of the lessons I have learned over the past 5 years of parenthood.  Because simply put, I love my wife - I love my daughters - I love my life.

1. Be Prepared to Make Sacrifices

This shouldn't be a real big surprise, but truthfully, you need to be prepared to make sacrifices.  Your life is no longer that important.  Your child's life is now the priority.  Your job is to be there for them.  It's a balancing act.  Have I given up on the life I had prior to having kids, absolutely not.  But, I most certainly don't have the bike I wish I did, nor do I do all the races I want to.  I have made the necessary sacrifices to make my kids life as enjoyable as I can while retaining some sense of sanity.

2. Never Judge Another Parent

Before I was a parent, I remember being out to dinner or out shopping and then I would be distracted by a crying, screaming child.  I would immediately think to myself, "good lord, why can't he/she control their kid."  Or, "Why don't they <insert your better idea here.>"  After having our first daughter, I immediately decided to never sit and criticize or judge another parent.  Personally, I have no idea what they are going through at that moment in time.  I don't know their story.  All I can do, is concern myself with my parenting.  This isn't easy, especially when you see some questionable parenting decisions.  I can only speak for myself and my decisions.  Granted this does not include the parents who choose to smoke in a car with an infant, feed their 2 year old Mountain Dew at 12:30am while making a Wal-Mart run for more beer.  These decisions are obviously stupid. 

3. Don't Blink

Kenny Chesney said it perfectly in his song, "Don't Blink."  But, it seems as though no matter how fast life seems to be going by before kids, it goes 10 times faster after having kids.  It honestly feels like I went to bed a 23 year old, happy, newly married man, and woke up this morning to the screaming cries of a 6 month old.  Where the hell did my life go?  Cherish each and every day, as frustrating as some days may be, it's only a moment in time and will soon pass.  I guarantee there will be a day when I look back wishing to be right where I am today.

4. Lead by Example

I definitely took this for granted.  But it didn't take long to realize that kids watch your every move and listen to EVERY.  SINGLE.  WORD.  I remember one day we were driving to Bay Beach (local amusement park) when Maya was flinging around her blanket pet, saying, "F#cking bunny, f#cking bunny..."  At first, Sarah and I thought she was saying, "Funny bunny."  At least that's what we wanted to be hearing.  Not quite.  It was at that immediate point I realized I needed to clean up my  This is a good thing through.  It provides us the opportunity to shape our children's lives to set them up for success throughout their live.  I show my kids how to stay active, never quit, eat healthy, and learn from mistakes.  As a dad of three girls, I do my best to show them how a girl should be treated, so they know what to expect from a boy when (heaven forbids) that day comes.

5.  Be There for Them at All Times

Kids are just like you and I, they have their good days and bad days.  The big difference is they don't have the ability to properly cope with their emotions.  They need extra love and support.  They may need an extra hug or just that reassurance that you love them and are there for them.  Most often, it's just a simple task such as looking at them in the eye and saying "I love you."  You also need to show them you care.  Sarah and I sign our kids up for a lot of classes and activities.  Often, it becomes easy to start to skip going to their classes or events.  Or going and sitting on our iPhones.  But, it's one thing to simply go, but to be engaged in your child's activity means so much to them.  It shows them you care.  I have found it gives them confidence - they enjoy their time more when you are there supporting them.  It makes a huge difference, trust me.

6. There are Different Levels of Love

I was definitely in love when I got engaged to Sarah.  My love continued to grow right up to our marriage.  It still grows each and and every day.  But, when we had Maya, I experienced a whole new level of love, the love of your child.  This love far beyond exceeds the love of your partner.  I never thought I would love anyone or anything more than I loved my wife, but then I did.  It's difficult to explain the love of your own child.  The best way I can describe it, is your significant other is another person who you truly care about and would do anything for; but your child is truly a part of you, you see yourself in them.  They are so innocent and vulnerable.  I would do anything for my kids and would give anything for them to be happy, successful, and healthy.  The love I have for my kids by far exceeds the love I have for my wife.  I guarantee she would say the same thing about me and I am not at all offended.

7. Non-Parents Just Don't Understand

Where I work, there are a bunch of younger guys who don't even have girlfriends, let alone children.  Most of them simply do not understand the responsibility having a kid is.  Most people, know and accept that raising a kid is no easy task, but really don't understand everything that goes on behind the scenes.  There is the obvious late, sleepless nights and being constantly needed.  But, most people never consider the struggle of finding childcare, especially last minute, the struggles of just getting ready to go run errands, or the struggle of simply getting a kid to eat a meal they just devoured the night before.  Simply put, it's not as easy as a non-parent just isn't.

8. Patience is a Necessity

This should go without saying, but without patience, you'll end up a stressed, worn-out wreck.  Plan on telling your kid about 16 times before they actually decide to start thinking about doing what you ask them to.  Then expect them to lose their focus another 23 times before the task is completed.  On top of that, be prepared to have your plans completed ruined at least 2 or 3 times.  I remember just this past year, we were planning on leaving to go camping after Sarah got home from work around 4pm on a Thursday.  I had the camper and car all packed up and was all ready to leave.  However, while I was packing Delaney had fallen asleep in our bed, which was actually a good that time.  Then, just as Sarah and I were loading Maya and Harper in the car, Delaney woke up crying...she peed in our bed.  So much for leaving on time.  The truth is, these type of things happen every single day.  You just learn to deal with life's little mishaps.  Just be patient.

9. Learn to Compromise

This goes more for you and your significant other.  After having Maya, Sarah and I have both mastered the skill of compromising.  Our day-to-day life is filled with, "I'll feed Harper, if you get dinner going for the other two," or, "If you mow the lawn today, I'll get the kids ready tomorrow morning so you can get your bike ride in."  The fact of the matter is raising kids is a team effort.  I couldn't imagine raising one kid on my own let alone three, and seriously bow down to single parent households.  Sarah and I have learned to compromise to allow us both to lead a somewhat normal life outside of our parenting-life.  I am able to train and race, while she is able to spend time with the girls and her friends while I get stuff down around the house.  It's all about sharing the responsibilities.

10. Do Things as a Family

One thing Sarah and I have always promised ourselves, was that we would not become a family that goes on lock-down just because we started a family.  Sure we have stopped doing certain things after having kids, but anything that we thought we could do with our kids we did.  We brought Delaney to a Minor League Baseball game just three days after her birth.  We brought Maya to Boston at a 18 months.  We brought both girls to Mexico last year when Maya was 3 and Delaney was 2.  In our opinion, it not only brings us closer as a family, but it exposes our kids to so much more than other kids.  I believe our kids are better for these experiences.  They learn how to behave in various situations.  We have never said, "We can't go there, because of our kids," and frankly, never will.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

How to Succeed on the Whole30

For Sarah and I, Wednesday, October 1st was day 30 of our Whole30. For me, it was my second round of completing the Whole30. But, for Sarah, it was her first endeavor on the Whole30. Our venture started the day after a long weekend away at her family's cabin up in the north woods of Wisconsin. It was a weekend of not only getting away and enjoying time with the family, but also eating rather unhealthily with no real cares. Speaking for myself, I know I drank plenty of beer, sweets, breads, and baked goods. It was ultimately what lead to my decision of going through another round of the Whole30. I wanted to get my diet back on track, especially with my upcoming marathon on October 11th.

Initially when I had come up with the idea and personally committed to doing a Whole30, I brought it up to Sarah, initially she said something similar to, "hell no." I took the strategy of reverse psychology to try and persuade her to join me. I replied to her convincing "no" with a snarky comment like, "I figured you wouldn't be able to do it," and "you're too unwilling to make changes." Sure, it was a risky decision to make some pretty mean comments to a touchy topic for most women, but it ended up paying off. She ultimately agreed to join me, more out of spite to prove me wrong, than to make a positive change in her diet than anything. I must say though, now that we both successfully completed the full Whole30, I think she was glad she did it and not only truly proved me wrong, but proved to herself that she succeeded with something that isn't as easy as it may seem.

As I just mentioned, Sarah honestly proved me wrong, as I had her pegged to make it a week. See, without putting myself at risk for starting a fight, Sarah doesn't share the same motivation and drive when it comes to diet and fitness as I do. Don't get me wrong, she does a lot of good things and it probably still in the minority when it comes to physical activity, but nothing above the general population. She, does her best to find 30-60 minutes a day of physical activity, such as walking with the kids and dog, or riding her stationary bike in the mornings before work. About once or twice a week she'll get in a longer workout in at the YMCA where she will walk on a treadmill and then do a short strength circuit following. As far as diet, she was as I stated early, unwilling to make the changes as, she simply didn't want to. She drank at least a soda or two a day, all diet. She would often snack at work throughout the day, especially when coworkers would bring in candy, cake, snacks, etc for everyone to share. More times than not, she would eat "right," but it was the in-between time that was having the negative impact. So, when she told me she was going to do the Whole30 with me, I was thrilled and honestly proud of her. At the same time, I had my doubts that she wouldn't make it. I thought, she give up and say it just wasn't worth it for her. But, here we are, on Day 31, and she did it, she didn't cheat, she didn't complain, and honestly, I think she kind of enjoyed it.

Apples were a staple throughout our Whole30

I am very proud of what she accomplished. This was a huge change for her. She gave up all forms of soda, coffee creamer, breads, her occasional treats while at work, and going out to eat at some of her favorite restaurants. There were days of frustration, anger, grogginess, and down right crabbiness, but throughout the 30 days I honestly saw a change in her. Not only in her physical appearance, but in her perception of food and food preparation.  In the end we both lost 9 lbs.  I started at 178 lbs and ended at 169 lbs.  I was hoping to be in the 165 ball park, but am happy with how I feel, look, and more importantly how I my training is going.  I also utilized Hammer Nutrition's Phytolean prior to any of my meals which were higher in carbohydrates to lessen the impact on my insulin release and better metabolize fat for energy opposed to carbohydrates (you can also click this link to save 15% off a bottle of Phytolean from Hammer Nutrition).  As for Sarah, I know she took more away than just weight lost over the last 30 days, because she regularly mentioned having more energy at work, especially on longer days.  She also said how she just feels "better."  So, I know if she can go 30 days eating this strict, a lot of you can too!  Below are a couple before and after pictures of myself.

Now, instead of continuing to talk about our experience from doing the Whole30, I would like to offer some suggestions and expectations for those who are considering doing their own Whole30. So, below are 7 suggestions, tips, expectations, and how to set yourself up for success with your Whole30. All of which I have learned from my 2 experiences on the Whole30.

1. Plan Ahead

In my opinion, the only way to succeed on the Whole30 is to plan. At a minimum, you should plan out your meals for each week. When you plan ahead, you know what you will be eating for dinner in advance. This will prevent those nights where you look around and just order a couple of pizzas for dinner instead of making a healthy dinner at home. I planned out a menu for each week and constructed our grocery list off of our menu. This not only structured our meals throughout the week, but kept only healthy foods in our house opposed to just stocking the shelves with random snack foods. In addition to planning your weekly dinner menu, you should plan ahead each individual day. Pack lunches for work, know what you are going to eat for breakfast before you go to bed. When you plan ahead, you basically force yourself to eat the right foods. If you know you are going to be going out to eat for a meal, jump online and check out their menu in advance and know what you are going to order and how you are going to order it even before getting to the restaurant. Having a plan sets you up for success, the more you plan, the more you will succeed.

2. Don't Do It Alone

My first Whole30 back in February was a lonely Whole30. I did it alone. There were some days where I would eat a separate dinner from Sarah and the girls. It was not nearly as easy as it was the second time around when I had Sarah along for the ride. Instead of buying multiple styles and types of foods, I was buy a lot of fruits and vegetables and didn't even have to bother with processed grains and breads. This time around, we cleaned out our cupboards of all non Whole30 foods, which wasn't going to happen my first time. Along setting ourselves up for success inside the home, it was nice to have someone else to talk to who was going through the same things I was. We were able to talk about our cravings and challenges each day. We helped each other throughout the 30 days. It really helped having someone else who is experiencing the exact same feelings you are and would highly recommend you convince someone, anyone else to join you in your journey.

3. Expect It To Be Time Consuming

Yes, cooking takes time. In fact, just about everything during the Whole30 takes extra time. Making your weekly menu. Takes time. Making your grocery list. Takes time. Grocery shopping and having to read just about every label before you buy it. Takes time. Packing all your meals. Takes time. Cooking each and every meal. Takes time. You get the idea, the Whole30 takes patience. But, it does get easier. You get into a new routine, you learn tricks, you adapt. Just about any meal that you will be eating during your Whole30 needs to be prepared in some way or another. There is nothing easy about it, but I will tell you, it is so worth it. You feel good about yourself, almost a sense of accomplishment. Just, be warned, that you need to be prepared for the extra commitment to being successful during your Whole30. It falls right back to planning. When you are planning your individual day, plan on scheduling a little extra time for meal prep!

4. Expect There To Be Difficult Days

No doubt, there will be days that you want to quit. Most people quit their Whole30 on days 10 or 11. Just know that better days lie ahead. But there will be days when a coworker will leave a bowl of M&M's sitting on your work desk and they will sit there all day just tempting you to have 1, 2, 50. There will be nights where you will go out to dinner for your parents birthday and then meet up at their house for cake and ice cream and you won't be able to have anything all night. Plan ahead! Plan for this, check out the menu in advance. If there is literally NOTHING on the menu for you to eat, eat something before going. Plan, plan, plan. You will not succeed if you do not plan ahead. Know what you will do ahead of time so you don't just say, "screw it, I want some of that cake!"  Here is a link to a typical timeline so you have an idea of what to expect throughout your Whole30.

5. Be Open To New Things

So, you're used to eating a traditional American diet of breads, pastas, pizzas, grains, and cereals. You are going to have to eat some new foods. You can't eat steak and sweet potatoes each and every day throughout your Whole30. Be open to experimenting with new foods and recipes. During both of my Whole30's I repeated a single meal, Bacon and Apple Stuffed Pork Chops. We tried new recipes like Cauliflower Hummus to replace our traditional store bought Hummus. You have to be willing to try new things and you also need to be willing to accept the fact that you may not like what you made, and have a back up plan in case your new recipe is just unpalatable.

6. Have A Plan For After

When I finished my first Whole30, I just wanted to have a bowl of oatmeal, ice cream, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So, on day 31, I woke up, had a bowl of oatmeal, had some yogurt and cheese, and then within a couple days of finishing my Whole30 I was basically right back to where I was before. I had no plan on how to handle day 31. All I knew is I was done with the Whole30 and no longer had to follow any of the strict diet rules and I took full advantage of that. This time around, I did the Whole30, not just to do it as I did in February, but to put myself into a position to succeed with a new lifestyle and diet. I am planning on continuing with the Whole30 principles until my marathon on October 11th, making it a Whole40 for myself. Coming off the marathon, I will have a beer or two, and do plan on treating myself a little that weekend, especially if I meet my goals.  I will also probably have a piece of cake for my daughter's birthday on Monday after the marathon. But, my plan is to follow a Paleo lifestyle and completely avoid grains, processed foods, added sugar, and focus on high quality meats, fruits, and vegetables, with the occasional dairy (cheese). The main difference between the Whole30 and Paleo, is that Paleo allows real sugars, such as honey and maple syrup, it also allows altered foods, such as Paleo Cookies, Cakes, etc, where the Whole30 does not allow Paleo altered foods. I have not decided if I will just allow myself 2 or 3 "cheat days" each month, or just trust myself to make the right decisions and eat a Paleo/Whole30 lifestyle and eat an occasional treat every now and again. But I do know that I will start following a Paleo Diet coming off the marathon and will make a few exceptions, especially in the week or two coming off the marathon.

7. It's Over Before You Realize It

30 days is 30 days, and sure, 30 days sounds long, I mean it's basically a full month. Its 1/12th of the year. With that being said, it's ONLY 30 days. It is not that long. It WILL be over before you realize it and you WILL be better for it. Have faith in the process and stick with it. I can recall several times throughout our Whole30 that Sarah would say something about how she was surprised that she was already 10, 15, 20, and then 29 days through the Whole30. It goes by quick. For most the second half, it becomes routine and it's just a part of your life. So don't get steered away because you think you could never make it 30 days, or 30 days is just too long. Challenge yourself, prove yourself wrong. Do what my wife Sarah did and make take on a challenge to improve yourself. You won't be disappointed, I promise you. I know that Sarah would also say that it was worth it, that she, at a minimum learned something about herself and her relationship with food.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Maya's Big Accomplishment

I realize that many of you may have seen Sarah's post on Facebook last week, but personally this is too big for me not to follow up with.

At the beginning of spring I told Sarah that my ambitious goal for Maya was to have her riding her bike without training wheels before her 5th birthday in October.  This was actually pretty ambitious and I honestly didn't think it would happen.  She started riding her bike last summer and we started on square 1....literally.  It started out with me rotating the pedals with my hands as I walked/jogged along side her.  This past spring we bought her a new bigger bike since she has been growing faster than a weed.  This spring she was right back at square 1.  She some how found a way to regularly fall off her bike WITH the training wheels on...yea, don't ask me about that one.

Both Sarah and I made it a point to go on walks as often as possible this summer and have Maya bike along to practice riding her bike.  She progressed quickly and loved it.  About a week ago, I had to work all weekend while Sarah was on call throughout the weekend.  On weekends like this, we send the girls over to Sarah's parents due to our difficult work schedules.  On Saturday evening, Sarah called me with the good news... Maya had officially learned to ride her bike without her training wheels!  Sarah's mom worked with her a lot on Saturday and by the end of the weekend she was riding confidently on her own!

Now, I just need to start training her so her legs can get used to running off the bike, because I know next summer she will be doing her first ever triathlon!