Tools For Keeping Yourself Honest

I have mentioned before that I have a pretty sedentary job, like most people. I am also a consultant, so I spend a lot of time traveling to client offices in Southern California.

I average 300-800 miles per week in the car (or on Metrolink, Amtrak and Metro). This translates to 2-6 hours per day in the car – that’s a lot of sitting. It also leads to a lot of meals on the go, snacks, skipping meals, etc. I’m not going to lie, Peanut Butter M&M’s definitely start calling my name as I head for the car in the afternoon when I am heading back to the office or home.

Sometimes I go to client offices for project meetings (I am an engineering consultant,) sometimes I go for business development and client relationship building. My job involves a lot of business lunches, coffee meetings, lunch presentations, after work social mixers, happy hours etc. I love it and this is probably the part of my job I enjoy the most…If you are anywhere in LA or Orange County, I can point you in the direction of a great restaurant you’ve never heard of.

This, though, can be problematic for maintaining a reasonable level of fitness.

Something you need to know about me: I am into exercise and I have really never had a problem staying pretty consistent at the gym or outside, but…I am HORRIBLE at tracking and recording workouts, eating and progress. I have tried everything. I have probably started and re-started a food log and workout journal 20 times in the last 4 years. I will do good for 2-3 weeks, them just stop recording.

I think some of the reason is how often I am on the go, out and about. Tracking was easy at home, but I wasn’t doing a good job bringing a notebook with me, I would miss a meal, a workout, a day, two days, 6 weeks…You get the picture.

So, about a year ago, I decided to go pretty much paperless at work. All my project notes, meeting minutes, reminders I put on an IPad (Mac fanboy here!). It worked great, because I got some sweet apps to assist (most notably Evernote).

It only took me another year to have the great idea that I could probably do the same for my workout and food log. So I got a couple more apps – here is what I use:

Moves

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I use this app to track all of my non-gym activity. It does a great job tracking walking and cycling. Based on the GPS location on my iPhone (needs cell service to work) and the accelerometer, it tracks, walking, running, cycling and time in transit. I love it because it is simple. It tracks steps, mileage, etc. It is very basic, so don’t expect it to do elevation like a Garmin or cool “fuel points” like Nike. I have found it to be very accurate, it even counts my walk to get coffee across the office. There is a great visualization tool for long term tracking. Also, it is free.

There are only three downsides:

1. You have to carry your phone (obviously). If you can live with some missed steps each day, no need to be OCD about it, but there are definitely times I don’t have my phone and I kick myself for missing a good walk. This usually happens when I am walking to a meeting in Los Angeles and I carry only my work phone (i.e., didn’t bring my briefcase) so I don’t have two phones bulging out of my pocket like a total nerd.

2. There is no synching between devices (this goes together with Issue 1). So there is no way for me to load the app on my personal phone and my work phone and have them communicate. This would solve the first problem in nearly all circumstances for me (unless I just leave the phone at home).

3. Battery drain! Because the app uses GPS and the data signal to track your position it seriously reduces battery time. I could get through an 8 hour day without charging, but barely.

Evernote

I use Evernote as a workout log. I can input from my phone or iPAD and put it all in a dedicated virtual notebook. It will synch to all devices and allow you to organize the, by date created and tag the, for future review and search. This is a fantastic app that I use for all my work projects, fantastic for teams and sharing as well.

There’s not much more to say about Evernote…if you aren’t using it at work or as a fitness log, you should be!

GoMeals

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This app is a really great way to track food intake at the macronutrient level. It has one of the best food libraries I have seen in an app like this. It also allows you to create your own foods (I put in my favorite yogurt). It also lets you designate favorite foods and meals for quick entry. This app was out together by Sanof; my Dad (who is a Type 2 Diabetic) turned me on to it. If you’re diabetic, you can also track blood glucose levels.

So, what’s great about it?

1. Food library is super good (as I mentioned above).

2. Macro nutrient break down gives you a full picture of what your calories came from (I shoot for 100g of carbs, and the rest of my calories from fat and protein) so the pie chart helps me visualize it.

3. Has a graph feature to track long term trends.

What’s not so great?

1. You can track activity in the form of calories burned, but it doesn’t offset your daily caloric intake needs based on activity completed (if you’re OCD this will drive you nuts).

2. It shows food consumed on the graph in terms of calories of fat, protein and carbs, not in terms of grams of each. I would like the option to view both ways.

If you are like me and constantly forget/misplace your log or just aren’t that motivated, give ese apps a try.

Have fun out there!

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Over the Hump Race Report

Last week I wrote a race recap for the Over the Hump race series being held at Irvine Lake from a spectators point of view. I figured it was only fair to do a follow-up from a racers perspective. So I entered this weeks race.

I used to mountain bike a lot and I raced in college, but I haven’t been on a mountain bike in about 5 years (since moving to California from Colorado). I tell you this because I debated, pretty heavily, what class to enter – Sport or Beginner. I ultimately went with the Beginner class, because I doubted that my fitness level could handle 3 laps as opposed to 2 (this turned out to be a very good choice).

Pre-Race Logistics

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I sold my only mountain bike recently (it wasn’t much of a race rig anyhow), so I reached out to the man behind the curtain, Matt at Over the Hump. He was kind enough to hit up the folks at Jax Bicycle Center and have them ear-mark a demo bike for me. To my delight, I showed up to find a Gary Fisher Superfly Al Elite waiting for me. What a sick bike. As I told the guy at the Jax tent – if I was going to get my soul stolen during the race, it wouldn’t be the bikes fault!

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The mechanic quickly got me squared away, installing the pedals I brought and tweaking the seat height for me. I pocketed a couple sample packets of Gu Roctane and was off to complete registration.

Registration

Registration was a breeze, the people working were friendly and gave me the whole run down on pre-riding the course. There was also a pre-race chip check (to make sure the system was recording things right for the electronic timing). A great idea, although it removed “system error” from my list of excuses. One bonus was that The Path was handing out free water bottles at the chip check. Had to go with hot pink!

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The Course

Last week, I said the course looked “fast, dusty and moderately technical. Definitely not epic single track”. Which I found to be true, but that is an over simplification and sells the race short by a pretty good margin. I had a lot of fun racing. The course had moderate climbing, some good single-ish track sections, quite a bit of off-camber riding with some loose rock and deep silty sections as well.

During pre-ride, I noted some sections (turns) that I thought would silt-out into a deep loose mess by the second lap, turns out it only took the start of the race to get there. It would be nice to do a bit of trail work and get these sections wetted down and turned to rock gardens instead of dust-pits. But it was only two parts of the course. No real complaints.

I was really impressed with the courses ability to use some natural and man-made features to keep things interesting on corners. One particular corner featured a tarmac curb-drop during a descent into a 90 degree turn (I think a few racers failed to notice the 6-inch drop, as I saw a few go down).

The middle of the course had a succession of climbs and descents which really got me to red-line (thought I was going to puke in my shoes a couple times!). Downed a couple of cherry-lime roctane to get sorted out – helped a ton.

The last third of the course really shined. It had some steep, fairly technical sections but still allowed for racing and passing with some fast descents into the finishing straight.

Again, I sold this course short last week. It was FUN!

Two laps was enough for me today, although it is worth mentioning that I was a little disappointed because the beginner race didn’t include some of the more technical sections that sport/expert/pro had (understandably). But as a technically proficient but out of shape mountain biker I found myself wishing for a “good bike handler but lazy” class or a “parents with kids under 10″ class, which would include the more technical sections, but only be two laps.

My race felt like this: Pain, More Pain, Going to Puke?

Then an amazing thing happened, I got to lap two and it felt like: Even More Pain, Going to Puke?, Not So Bad, Why Am I So Slow?, Almost Done!

Post Race/Vibe/Sponsors

I was also impressed with the turnout of local shops and sponsors. It was family night, which was great. It’s super fun to see a mountain bike community that knows and understands that families want to participate together. The kids races each week are also a nice touch.

Because it was family night, there were balloon animals, face painting, a bounce house and other diversions for the kiddos.

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What was also cool is Oakley showed up tonight (their headquarters is in Foothills Ranch, just a quick jaunt down Santiago Canyon) and were offering free lens upgrades! Seriously. I got brand new Black Iridium lenses for my Radars for free.

There were a ton of other supporters/sponsors and exhibitors out too: Bahati Racing, Kenda Tires, Fizik, Troy Lee Designs, several Local Bike Shops t(o name a few), all demo-ing and selling gear and clothing. It was great.

Recap/Conclusion/Take-Away

Should you take the time and make the effort to race? Unequivocally, yes! It is a great race, lots of fun and a good way to get some suffering in without just pounding out another workout.

What’s in it for you if you come out? Grass-roots racing, developing a community, being a part of something that doesn’t happen everywhere. Having the opportunity to live a life that has a bit more excitement in it. Showing your friends and family how much fun an active outdoor lifestyle is.

And…some free swag. Seriously, when is the last time you got ANYTHING for free (or the low-low price of $25)?

Tonight, I got new lenses for my glasses, a free water bottle, to ride a sweet bike, have some fun, feel some pain, (yep, I’m still alive, thanks for the systems-check lungs, heart and burning quads), boosted my immune system (eating dirt does that, really), and provided my daughter with an example of healthy activity and had fun being outside.

What a good experience it was.

Have fun out there!

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Weekend Round-Up (8/10-11/13)

Alright, it’s time for our first Weekend Round-Up.

This is where I’ll talk about the weekend activities, what went well, what didn’t, how races were (if I raced), how events were (if I went) and general thought/insights on being outdoors with family and friends here in beautiful Orange County. Should be humorous, serious, thrilling and disappointing.

Saturday

Saturday was pretty solid, although it started off a bit iffy. I wanted to get a decent bike ride in because my Dad and I are going to ride the Solvang Autumn Double Century in October (we’ll talk more about goal setting/adventures/perspective on Thursdays during Thul’s Corner). The ride is about 200 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing. (I am relying on youth and pulling the kiddo during training to act as a substitute for volume).

It didn’t start out well, we HAD to watch two episodes of Little Einsteins after breakfast before we could ride. So we didn’t get rolling until almost 10:00 am. It was beautiful out Saturday, sunny and about 75 degrees. We hit the Mountain to Sea Trail (Map) from Irvine down to Newport Backbay.

It was breezy, the trailer behind me made riding out a bit like when drag racers deploy the parachute to stop (I was looking forward to the ride home). Audrey was great, rode like a pro in the trailer, as I rode along I heard “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the circus! Next up is Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang!” Both are currently fixations at our house.

As we rode the trail we saw ducks, a white egret and great blue herons. There were plenty of people out making use of the trail. Here’s a shot of Audrey in the trailer at the Back Bay.

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I apologize for breaking two bike picture commandments, (“Though shalt not lean thy bike at an angle exceeding 10 degrees from upright” and “Though shalt not photograph thy bike on the non-drive side”). I didn’t want to scrape the carbon of my beautiful Fuji SST, but I have no excuse for breaking the second commandment. (For more on the rules of cycling, check out The Velominati.)

We eventually turned around at the Back Bay Science Center, where we had a small snack.

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This brought our total ride to about 35 miles by the time we got home.

I was reminded of a couple things:

1. Riding from 10-12:30 kinda sucks. Try to get out earlier.
2. Eating one bar on the ride (90 calories) does not make up for the 2,000 burned! I bonked hard at the end of the ride.
3. There is such a thing as into the wind both ways (wind direction changed halfway through).

Sunday

Sunday was pretty mellow. Knocked out a quick 45 minutes with my neighbor on the bike in the morning. Then the family and some friends spent the next 12 hours wandering around the San Diego Zoo. We had fun, but the traffic was horrible!

Have fun out there!

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Gear Up! (Week of 8/11/13)

Kaenon Calais Sunglasses

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If you’re a woman (or super-fab guy) pick up these glasses for yourself from Department of Goods for 50% off. If you’re just an average joe, score these for your wife, girlfriend, sister, mother, daughter…whoever. Department of Goods is a “members” website (so you have to give them your email though; based on my experience the screaming deals are well worth it.)

Why these glasses? Look at them. Also, Kaenon sunglasses are designed in Newport Beach and are one of he few brands not owned by the Luxxotica conglomerate. Their polarized lenses are world glass great for riding, paddling or sipping ‘Rita’s by the pool. Not into this style? Check out Kaenon’s other shades here. My wife has been rocking Kaenons since we first got into Stand Up Paddling (she bought them at the Battle of the Paddle. Loves them.

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Over The Hump Recap

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The family and I decided to head out to Irvine Lake last Thursday, to check out the Over The Hump race series. We have been avid mountain bikers since college (I raced for the CU Cycling team, and Kristin and I rode a lot together.)

We weren’t sure what to expect from the event or the venue. I had been up to Irvine Lake for the Orange County Beer Fest several years ago, but couldn’t imagine what the race course would look like.

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The course looked fast, dusty and only moderately technical. Definitely not epic single track. However, the race is close to home, cheap ($25 entry and $3 parking) and well attended. It was refreshing to see an event that’s about having fun and building the sport. There were tons of first time and rookie racers. If you’ve never raced before, this is a good series to check out. If you’re experienced, it’s a good series to get race fit and work on tactics.

The Pro/Expert classes showed up with their race faces on. The sprint for the hole shot was pretty intense and no one seemed to let off the gas the entire race. When the likes of Rahsaan Bahati is making excuses before the race, you know the pace is going to be turned way up. For what it’s worth, he turned in a respectable 7th place finish.

The action was equally intense all the way down the ranks to the “True Beginner” class. Everyone got after it, mixed it up and had some fun. The women racing were seriously fast as well. Good racing all around,

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What I liked about the race was the number of local shops and teams present and representing. A lot of community and people who seem to be in it for the love of the sport. There is also a high school race series that makes these events part of the series, which is great. It’s a nice way to offer alternative sport options to high school kids.

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What the kiddo liked most was free stickers and a Popsicle.

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