Journey to the Ironman: Expanding My Palate

By Jonathan Mackintosh

Ouray And we’re off! I just finished my third week of the 13-week Ironman training program, the tension has lifted, the birds are singing and I can honestly picture myself crossing the finish line.

Fear of the unknown can draw you into so many dark places where insecurity and failure thrive. For me, it goes back to the feelings I’ve had in the past, like a rubber band drawn tight, waiting to be snapped.

Three weeks ago, I felt the release of tension as I finally tackled the uncertainty of injury. I ran. The tightness in my legs, tightness I had been feeling for months, released and I finally felt like the roadblock that was barring my path to completion was eliminated. The narrative has changed from “will I be successful” to “how successful will I be”.

The first three weeks have been my proving ground. I have trained hard over the past few months, I have stayed diligent and now I am sitting back (figuratively of course) and reaping the benefits.

The workouts have become longer and more frequent, but I am enjoying them far more than at any other point in my journey. Point in fact, I got the chance a couple weeks ago to change the scenery a bit in my training and headed into the mountains for the weekend with my family at a beautiful Bed & Breakfast called Black Bear Manor in Ouray, CO (Full disclosure, my in-laws own and operate the place, but that changes nothing about how amazing the place is). I brought my bike up and had a 2 hour ride in the mountains that blew my mind. I was grinning like a fool the whole time as I wound along rivers, scared a few deer and challenged myself not to accidently ride off the cliff.

It was a taste of the possibilities that have opened up to me. My poor decisions of my past had taken my freedom of decision down a bad road that had severely limited my options. I can’t do that because it makes me feel uncomfortable. I can’t do that because I am exhausted.Peanut Butter and Jam - Feb 10 (40/365)

Today, I am pushing my body and my mindset to new limits and it has made me realize that I have been an ignorant fool. I don’t want to spend my life eating a boring PB&J on white bread with the crusts cut off (WARNING: Symbolism at play). I have now tasted grilled cheese and it has shattered my preconceived notions of “normal”. Borrowing a phrase from the Bible again, I have tasted and know that it is good.

Now I am pushing for Creme Brulee.

Exercise

Here is what my first two weeks looked like:

  • Swimming Total: 14.88 miles
  • Biking Total: 210 Miles
  • Running Total: 56.85 Miles

Total Time Spent: 31 hours and 30 minutes.

Loved every minute of it. Except for the hours of running on the treadmill due to Spring snow storms. I got in some good episodes of Community on my phone though.

Nutrition

I am at the point where calorie exchange is critical. I need energy to fuel my efforts, so I am not as focused on weight reduction as I am on building lean muscle. The NuChallenge products have helped me bring in those extra few calories I need for my big endurance days and I have stayed steady on my overall weight. I have also been starting to use Alert in place of coffee as my “before” pick me up prior to training. Love it!

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Road to the Ironman: The Inspiration Epidemic

Written by Jonathan Mackintosh

Inspiration and passion are contagious. You inspire me, I might inspire you and we become a group that inspires others. There is a viral effect that rapidly moves beyond our ability to track.

Credit: Dr Stephen McQuaid & Stewart Church / QUB / Wellcome Images

Credit: Dr Stephen McQuaid & Stewart Church / QUB / Wellcome Images

These past couple of weeks I have watched inspiration hit my wife like a ton of bricks. I mentioned in my last blog that she had started looking at how to remove processed food from our diet, well she dove in head first and has become a serious advocate for healthy living. In our family you are not allowed to half-ass it. You are all in or you are lazy (Hence I am doing an Ironman with only one other triathlon under my belt). This isn’t a rule in our family, just the way we work.

So, we have donated our cupboards and freezer stock of processed food and started over with the basics. We make our food from scratch, we are able to pronounce every ingredient and we try to avoid hormonal overload on our meat and dairy. With three females in the family, we have enough hormones without the extras (don’t get mad sweetheart…it’s funny). The transition to this lifestyle is helped because we are able to peek into the lives of those that have gone before us, people we can relate to.

Inspiration often requires context to create action within us. If I can identify with the person, I can more easily picture myself doing what they did. The trail has been blazed. My wife finds inspiration in bloggers who have families similar to ours, sharing their journey through stories of success and failure.

Their failures make them accessible, their successes inspire action.

The beauty of the contagion is that when we take action, we immediately become a candidate to inspire others. It doesn’t mean we have it all figured out. Like I mentioned before, I am far less inspired by people that aren’t willing to express their failures. We become a trail blazer for our friends and neighbors who couldn’t identify with anyone before.

I desire to be a part of an epidemic of change. I desire to inspire others. I don’t think that’s egotistical, because my criteria is that I share my failures alongside my successes. I want my journey to the Ironman to be an accessible story for those that are in similar situations to where I began.

So here are three very real things about me:

  1. I still can’t look at myself in the mirror with my shirt off
  2. I battle with feelings of failure and depression when I take a necessary break from routine
  3. I fear what I will feel/look like in 1, 3, 5 years. Have I really changed for good?

Exercise

I have started running again. Just a little bit, but so far it hasn’t hurt my soleus muscle so I am optimistic. I will continue to slowly build my miles back in to my run, with tons of stretches and muscle rolling integrated into the routine.

I am continuing my focus on building my core muscles to create stability when the major endurance training kicks in. I am a big advocate for Core Performance Training. It has helped rid me of my lower back issues and I am sure it has prevented a large number of potential injuries. They have a great ramp up program that meets you where you are. That’s my plug.

My next blog entry will include our first week of the 13 week training program. I am extremely nervous but thrilled. I think my training is there, but per usual, I am nervous about my injury. Onward.

Nutrition

I already talked a lot about what we have changed to lately regarding unprocessed food. Here is a particular site that has inspired my wife (who has inspired me):

http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/

Since our transition, I broke through a weight-loss plateau that I had been stuck on for 3 months, losing an additional 8 lbs. The bonus is food just plain tastes better.

I have also started to add in Power Bar gels during my longer duration exercises to get my body used to the substance since it will be necessary during the Ironman race.

On top of it all, I am still rocking the Nussentials stuff. The key for me has been my post workout Less protein shakes. Yesterday I was in a foul mood after three hours of training. My best guessfor  is that it was a vitamin deficiency, because after the shake my mood improved considerably.

Journey to the Ironman: Becoming an Olympian…Sort of

Written by Jonathan Mackintosh

Rubberband GunAnticipation has become a burr in my breaches. I’m itching to jump the gun. Here is a bad analogy I am going to share anyways: I feel like there is a rubber band gun pointed at me. It probably won’t hurt, but you still flinch from the uncertainty of when/where/how it will strike. We are coming up on the home stretch before the endurance training kicks into gear. I have 4 weeks to get to where I am going before the 13 week countdown begins. However, I am constrained by the need to take an excruciatingly slow approach to continued healing in my right tendon leg, with no guarantee that it will make a difference. I can just see myself running down the road for the first time in months, having worked daily on strengthening, stretching, massaging and icing my leg, only to feel the first bite of pain as the leg flares up again. Hence the flinchiness with the rubber band. It can drive you bonkers to think about all of the what ifs.

I am reminded of a Summer Olympics I watched a few years back. During the 100 meter dash, I watched a runner jump the gun twice in a row resulting in a disqualification. I was devastated for the person who likely had sacrificed years of their life for the opportunity to compete, only to lose on a technicality. I could not, and still cannot, imagine the thoughts assailing the runner pre and post disqualification. You have trained for years to the point in which the difference between last and first is a second. Talk about being drawn taught. Yet, what really blows my mind is that you will see an Olympic athlete lose spectacularly, only to fight on for four more years and return to the next Olympics. How do they bear the potential for failure and justify the sacrifice?

Beyond enjoying the sport itself, I like to believe they have developed a passion for pursuit, no matter the prize. Sure winning the gold is wonderful, but when possible, that same athlete is back the next time around even after being declared the best in the world. Their personality and passion isn’t often changed by achieving success, or more to the point, failing. They are in the race to be in the race.

My point is that I am in a constant state of having to remind myself that the race at the end of my Ironman journey, does not define the journey itself. This is about the Journey TO the Ironman, not even about the Ironman itself. That all sounds cheesy, and maybe I am just blowing smoke, but it honestly is a struggle for me to anticipate the tragedy of the potential that I may not succeed. So I must retrain my mind to pursue the race, not the result.

Nutrition

Highland CowThere is an absolute ton of research, blog opinions and propaganda out there on the best path forward for healthy eating. My wife and I have been saturated lately with wading through all of this info, trying to develop plans for when I am at the peak of training. Here is what we have learned so far: most generic milk is disgusting, high fructose corn syrup with kill me, but only after soda claims my soul. Eye opening stuff. Needless to say my wife is now a vegan and I am well on my way (except for the meat and dairy part).

Actually we are very interested in the Paleo way of eating, though we believe in good grains and healthy dairy. I like to think of it as the Paleo Plus Diet. Coined.

Still loving and rocking the Nussentials products. Currently using Alert, Core, Less, Run and may start Restore soon. That, combined with our adventures in healthy eating, has made a huge difference in my recovery time and overall feeling healthy. Still figuring out the optimum profile balance for products, but maybe my journey can help jumpstart Nussentials to create persona product packages. Like a product package for athletes, similar to the weight loss focused, Gold Pack. You heard it here first.

Exercise

This has been a tough Colorado Winter experience. There are so many days that I have been forced to adapt to deal with snow on the ground and ice on the roads. I think most endurance athletes can attest that there is very little enjoyment in being regulated to off-season training, when your mind is rearing to hit the trail. I don’t mean to sound bitter, but Colorado has long Winters. This is coming from a boy born and raised in California, where I spent almost 2 years straight in the same pair of Rainbow® sandals. So I am regulated to foam rolling (and sometime wooden roller pinning) the tears out of me and my sore muscles. If I can’t enjoy the outdoors, might as well be in pain, right?

Journey to the Ironman: Turning Roadblocks to Rest Stops

Written by Jonathan Mackintosh

We have all heard the feel-good stories of those that overcame significant odds to become champions. While those are incredible inspirations, it usually only takes a small circumstance to sideline the rest of us.

My situation falls into the “small circumstance” category for most, but it provided me a necessary lesson for continuing to endure within my bubble.

I have been bothered by a tendon in my right leg (above the heel but below the calf), which is likely my Soleus muscle or my Achilles tendon (Courtesy of  Google). I had taken a long break (around 6 weeks) and stopped running altogether in hopes that healing would occur, but this past week when I was out for my victory run in sunny San Diego, I began to feel the pain return.

road-blockNow many thoughts assailed me in the first moments of feeling the pain and amongst those thoughts was the crushing premonition that my Ironman adventure was at an end. It is difficult to run a marathon when you can’t run (weird how that works). I came back to Colorado feeling, to be honest, a bit defeated by the giant boulder of injury sitting smack dab in the middle of my journey.

Then I was reminded of something that has been a driver for me throughout this process:

Don’t turn a rest stop into a roadblock.

I am working to stop looking at the injury as the end all and start exploring how I can work within the limitations of where I am at physically. I can swim, I can ride, I can pretend I am good at dancing and I can certainly manage my nutrition.

And, it turns out, I am fairly ignorant when it comes to understanding the human body. Mind blown. The injury could be short-term recoverable and with caution, I could be back up and running in a couple of weeks. Even if it is a long-term healing process the end goal is worth the struggle (or hobble) to get there.

Injuries, work, family dynamics, these can all create pauses in the pursuit. There have been many times throughout this process that I have needlessly benched myself because I thought I was incapable of taking the necessary steps forward. I was turning a momentary disruption into a permanent decision. Naughty naughty (my finger is waggling)!

I am training not just my body to endure, but there is a mental training component as well. I am establishing my own understanding of what I am capable of. As I accomplish the little things, overcoming the little roadblocks, I pick up speed and momentum. From what I can gather, Ironman athletes don’t rely on their body to not become exhausted during the race, because it will. Instead, they rely on the belief that they can outlast the exhaustion (although the less training, the more faith necessary).

Perseverance builds the character necessary to endure (borrowed a bit from the Bible there).

I am still learning and relearning how to work on, through, around this injury, but I am also working to look outside of my extremely limited mental perspective. All I see is the boulder, because that is where I am at, but I have a family, a community and a Google that will help me overcome my roadblocks.

I choose to continue to run the race as if to obtain the prize (thank you again Bible).

Training

Jonathan Mackintosh Frozen BeardWe are coming to the end of our pre-training training and I am attempting to gear up quickly for the real meat of my training adding some two-a-days to the plans for time efficiency. I continue to bike in the freezing cold and I had my first frozen beard experience which made me feel tough for a bit. Swimming is going well, though I almost drowned myself in a 4 foot pool trying to learn how to do flip turns. Evidently you’re supposed to breathe before or after the flip, not during.  I believe this to be a key life lesson.

Nutrition

On top of my daily supplements (Nussentials’ Core, Less and Alert) I am adding Nussential’s Run and some fish oil to my nutrition to see if it helps at all with the healing process in my leg. I will keep you posted.

Recipe

My current favorite breakfast is a protein rich take on a classic: Egg McMuffin

I substitute the English muffin with whole wheat toast, add avocado and spinach. To make it quickly, I cook my eggs in a ramekin in the microwave at 60% power for 2 ½ minutes (cover with seran wrap).

Ends up looking just like McDonald’s but on steroids and far more delicious.

Journey to the Ironman: A Blind Date with Passion

Written by Jonathan Mackintosh

So I mentioned in my previous post, that my journey to getting healthy was driven in part by Passion. Passion sounds romantic when it comes to building towards a goal, but what happens when passion is not easily conjured out of the air?

When I started this journey in the Summer of 2011, my wife and I had a 5 month old little girl. For those of you who are parents of small children, you can understand how life can get a bit “interrupted” by 20 lbs of crying midnight madness. Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter exceedingly, but new parents can attest that you are at the mercy of insanity that first year. Passion for the journey to getting healthy was far from a reality, simple survival was the goal.

I certainly had desires to be different, I believed that I had the potential, but I wasn’t “passionate” about the process it would take to get there. How do you feel passionate about something that is big, scary and lives under your bed at night? No, I was freaked out about the sacrifice it would take, I was scared of failing again, I was scared that this was another yo-yo diet session and I was afraid of the effects it would have on my family.

Blind DateI equate the process, loosely, to a blind date. To go on a blind date, you are somewhat at the point of desperation, can’t find your “soul mate” even though you have tried many times to make it happen. You may have found the dating process to be arduous and daunting so you can’t imagine this will be any different. Yet, you meet the date anyways. Not because you have a passion for dating and not because you have a passion for the person you are meeting, but because you desire the potential outcome. For the sake of the story, somewhere during the initial awkwardness you see a glimmer of hope. Slowly your apprehension gets out of the way, you begin to build a relationship and it slowly stops feeling so much like an uphill struggle.  Passion takes over and you stop looking at it as a journey towards something and realize you have arrived.

So I have a point. Hopefully. Exercise, eating healthy, being disciplined, these were means to an end when this all started. I looked at them as part of the uphill struggle to get healthy. But I also saw it as temporary. I would do this, it would produce these results and I would be done. That’s how I started. I had always said I hated running. It was not my thing and as a 6 foot 2 inch 275 pound man, I didn’t think that was the way to ease into anything. So I took baby steps.  I found something I halfway enjoyed (biking) and worked it into my routine. As I got past my initial fear of exercise, I began to desire diversity and took on the “big scary monster”, running. As time progressed, I hated it less, learned to like it and eventually even saw trickles of a long-term relationship in the works. Eventually I looked around and realized that this means to an end, had become a passion.

That doesn’t mean there still aren’t tough days when I don’t want to get out of bed. It just means I no longer see healthy living, running included, as a temporary fix, and now recognize it as a long term relationship.

Training

In the coming weeks, my passion will certainly be put to the test as I take on the Ironman training. Currently, I am building the base exercise structure that prepares me for the more intense training regimen. My brother (who is crazily joining me on this endeavor) and I will be working through the fairly well known program, 13-weeks to a 13 hour Ironman.

Our weeks leading up to it primarily consist of core focused workouts including, weight-lifting and plyometric training. See Core Performance Training for more details. We also work in swimming, biking and running to ensure our endurance is up to snuff when beginning the main program. I will be sharing more details as the training intensifies.

Nutrition

I mentioned I am using the Nussentials products for nutritional supplements during my training. I had been primarily using Less as my protein shake after workouts, adding non-fat milk and vanilla Greek yogurt to the mix. I have been very satisfied with my workout recovery.  I was finding though, that I was feeling extremely tired during the day and suspected that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients from my current diet, so I added in Nussential’s Core product. The added B12 in my diet, plus all the other nutrients, has vastly improved my post workout energy and I no longer find myself nodding off in the middle of conversations with my wife. Always a good thing to avoid.

Recipe

As previously promised, I am sharing with all of you my absolute favorite meal of all time. It happens to be incredibly healthy too, so it’s the feel good recipe of the year.

Follow the link for the Sweet Sassy Sausage Soup (created by Reba Mackintosh, my wife)