Friday, January 30, 2015

Getting Organized

I think it's safe to say that triathlon is not for the disorganized. 

First of all, in case you guys were not aware of this, you don't train for all three parts of a tri at the same time. With the exception of certain workouts (known as "bricks") where you practice two sports at a time to get used to the feel of it, you train all three disciplines separately. While that might make some people sigh in relief that they don't have to swim, bike and run every day, the reality is that you have to figure out your week with a lot of precision if you want to get all your training in there. That means running at tight ship at home and an even tighter schedule.

The last two weeks have been the first with full-on running and cycling and hopefully this week I can introduce swimming to the equation. It has been pretty interesting and quite honestly a lot of fun so far. Yes, fun. While it's easy to get anxious about changes like that, everything has fallen into place kind of naturally. Of, course I'm working hard to not over-do it. The worse thing you can do is to try to do everything at once. Here are some new things I'm doing.

I love the smell of running in the morning...
In the past I have tried to avoid running early in the morning. With the exception of some long runs, all my running usually happens in the afternoon/at night. I try to protect my sleep time as much as I can plus, I admit, there have been some mornings where I have woken up and said "no way" and went back to sleep so I avoid early morning runs. But, you can only cram so much in a week and if you intend to swim, bike and run enough you need to make more efficient use of your time. To be able to swim in the afternoons/nights, I have to run in the mornings. Pretty much all training plans I have seen have two days per week where you both swim and run. As I get ready to start swimming, I have cleared Tuesday and Thursday afternoons to do it so I wake up at 5am to run. It hasn't been as bad as I thought. In fact after running in the morning and taking a shower I feel refreshed and ready to go. It's the waking up part that sucks. We'll see if that sticks.


The wonderful World of cycling
I'm enjoying cycling. I really am. It's a completely different feeling from running. So far I have been careful to acclimate properly by keeping the rides short. As I remain on the saddle for longer and longer, my nether regions complain accordingly but I think (hope) it's getting better. Apart from riding near my house I have been going to the linear park several times as I feel safer there (no traffic = good) and I went to "La Ruta del Ciclista" (The Cyclist's Route). It's a section of public road that the police closes on Sundays from 6:30am to 11:00am so that cyclists and runners have a "car-free zone". The road runs parallel to the beach so you get this breathtaking view while you ride. Awesome stuff. If you do the whole route and come back it's 10 miles. I was a bit nervous being my first time and being the new guy but not only did I find tons of people riding there but also people at all levels of fitness. I see myself going there regularly. I was surprised to ride the whole 10 miles in less than an hour. I'm cycling faster than I thought I would be. Believe me, I'm not complaining. There is one byproduct of cycling that I wasn't expecting but it's been great so far. Riding the day after a run really helps with my recovery it seems. It might sound weird, (how can you recover if you are working out) but I feel better the days I ride after a running day than on the days I don't ride. Interesting...

Isn't technology wonderful?
It has taken some tweaking but I'm getting my tech set up just the way I want. First, my Garmin Connect account. Garmin recently launched a new version of Garmin Connect that is very customizable. It allows you to get a pretty comprehensive glance at what you are doing.

If you own a Garmin device, I invite you to take the time to set up this page to your liking. Move things around, add and take off things according to your needs. Once you do, it will make your life so much easier. I have also linked my Garmin account with MyFitnessPal. Doing so sends my calorie consumption from MyFitnessPal to Garmin Connect and in return Garmin sends my workouts and calories burned to MyFitnessPal. Isn't that awesome? Plus, Garmin sends my workouts directly to both Strava and Beginner Triathlete. In the past I have talked about how much I like Garmin Connect but find their social component a bit lacking. Since I was having trouble with Dailymile, and since Strava seems to be the weapon of choice for cyclists and triathletes I'm sending data there. Having my info on these two sites lets me connect with other people and motivate each other.

So look me up in those sites if you want to connect. At Garmin Connect I'm TheFatRunner, at Strava I'm Frank Pizarro and uziel5000 at Beginner Triathlete. You can find me at Dailymile under TheFatRunner21. I still have not given up trying to make it work so we'll see. You might still be able to catch me there.

So multi-sport training is under way! What I still haven't started is an actual, structured training plan. So far I'm just logging time in all three sports. As the year moves further along and I set an actual race (and race date) then I can dive into one of those.

Friday, January 23, 2015

To Goofy or not to Goofy... that is the question

Choices have to be made. Oh, the horror...

As I have posted several times, I would like to do the Goofy Challenge in 2016. As early as this time last year, I made it very clear that the Goofy Challenge was in my list of long term goals and that 2016 was the year to do it. You might also remember that after tackling the Disney Marathon without my wife and daughters, I vowed that my next runDisney experience would include them for sure. Next April, Marathon Weekend registration goes on sale and everything is going according to plan. Except for one thing.

My family doesn't want to go.

No, they are not insane. No, really. And it's not that they don't want to go perse. There is a perfectly good reason for this turn of events and while I kind of understand, I'm still kind of shocked a little bit. My daughters are not only Disney fans through and through, but HUGE Frozen fans so you would expect them to be ecstatic at the prospect of going to Disney World, especially with all the Frozen stuff happening at the parks. But no. Given the choice, they want to do something else. They want to go on a Disney cruise.

Let's go back a bit. We were having a family conversation about how much fun we were gonna have when Daddy would finally take everyone with him to Disney World when the subject of the Disney cruise came up. We went on the Disney Fantasy in November 2012 and had one of the best vacations I've ever had and THE best family vacation ever by far on that cruise. Not to mention I ran my first Disney race there (Castaway Cay 5K) which quite literally started this whole running journey. The girls were raving about how much fun it was and that they wanted to go again.

My daughters came up with the brilliant idea of going to the parks AND the cruise. My wallet complained before I did. "Girls, I know you guys love the cruise but we can't do both. No way."

- "But we want to go!"
- "Sorry, but we can only do one or the other.

This is where I totally misread my daughters. And my wife, I might add. I mean, I was thinking Parks, Castle, Princesses, Frozen... they would take the bait for sure.

- "So choose. What would you do. The cruise, or the Parks?"

Yeah, that was the wrong question. My oldest and my wife (the traitors) blurted out "Cruise!" in less than a second. Veronica, the middle one, was conflicted. She still wanted to have her cake and eat it too. But with some reluctance said "Parks!" after asking many, many times why we just could not do both. But her answer was not firm. After some prodding from her sister she went with cruise as well.

I understand my wife's choice on this. She hasn't stopped talking about the cruise since we got off the ship, even now over two years later. She is also worried about going to the parks during a race. She doesn't speak any English and the prospect of spending  a day (Marathon)and a half(Half Marathon) alone with three kids in a place she is not familiar with while I'm running scares her a bit. So given a choice, she took the safe bet.

The girls on the other hand, I would have not guessed. I underestimated how much fun they had on the cruise. They have been to the parks but the cruise was more recent so maybe that weighs heavily on their choice too.

So, this is what I'm left with. If I want to do this race, I would have to do it on the ultra-cheap. My brother is living in Miami and has a time share in Orlando so he would provide both lodging and transportation for free(maybe even do the Half with me if I can convince him). I can use my accumulated airfare points for the plane ticket so I would just need to pay race registration and spending money for the weekend. No parks, no resorts, no extra days. Arrive on Friday, leave on Sunday or Monday. Sounds horrible I guess, but it's doable. I'm there to accomplish a goal after all. The other stuff is just extra. Then, in November go have the time of our lives on the cruise.

That, or do the Goofy Challenge on some other year...

Meanwhile, negotiations continue at the Pizarro household to see if some alternative agreement can be reached. The one thing that is not negotiable is for me to simply say that we are going and have them feel like they were forced to go. That sounds so weird. Who would need to be forced to go to Disney World?! Well, apparently people set on taking another Disney cruise.

Guys, I'm all ears (or eyes). What do you think? There's no hurry (yet). Registration starts in April so there is time to think about it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Deal With Fast Food

I was watching a documentary called Fed Up over the weekend about our collective addiction to sugar and processed food. I think it's something worth checking out. It really made me think about our eating habits. I say "our" because it's not just my habits but my family's. I hate to think I'm passing some really bad things down to my girls and it worried me a bit.

About the documentary itself, I invite you to watch it and formulate your own opinions on it. In my case it made me think about my eating when I was growing up and how it has changed as processed food has become more accessible. After careful analysis, here are some things I found interesting.

When I was a kid, fast food was not as widespread as it is today. The first big chain to make a serious expansion in Puerto Rico was Burger King. There were others of course but back then they started popping up more frequently. If we wanted to eat some Burger King, we had to drive 30 minutes to a mall in San Juan to get some. My Mom worked in San Juan so if she wanted to take us, she had to come from work, pick us up then go back to San Juan to eat there. Needless to say, she had to be in a very good mood to do that and we had to earn it. There had better been some good grades or something like that if we were to dare ask to go to Burger King. 

The main source of food was my Grandmother's cooking, and it was good. She was like most Grandma's in that she never measured anything so most of her recipes died with her, much to my dismay. This woman was a monster cook. Any native dish I eat is still compared to her version to this day. So, Burger King was simply a treat we would get once in a while. If it was a really special occasion, we would go to Pizza Hut. Fine dining at its finest if you asked me. "We are going to Pizza Hut? I better go air out the good clothes. You don't wear shorts to Pizza Hut."

Then came McDonald's and their massive expansion in the island which forced Burger King to reciprocate. The success of both chains ushered the entry of the others. You know, Wendy's, KFC, Taco Bell and they were everywhere. By the mid 90's they had taken over the island and things changed. I don't think for the best.

My Grandmother's health deteriorated and was unable to cook for us. My Mom worked so we started to eat what was accessible and convenient. Where back in the day it took 30 minutes to get a Whopper, today there are three Burger Kings within a mile of my house. Three. Right next to one another. To those three Burger Kings in a town that previously had no fast food joints you can add a McDonald's, 2 Church's Fried Chickens, 2 Taco Bells, 2 Subways, a KFC, a Wendy's , a Papa John's and a Pizza Hut. I have no problem picking up a pizza in shorts and flip flops at Pizza Hut these days. Change indeed. And that is just my hometown. I'm not even talking about the adjacent towns that have other choices within 5 to 10 minutes of my house.

We eat way too much fast food at my house. It's a sad fact but it's true. There is not a week that goes by when we don't eat it. We have allowed convenience to overtake our desire for health. We go to these places and eat and we don't just settle for basics either. It's the combo meal which means soda and of course no small potions either. For a while now, I have been going to these places looking for healthier choices but that doesn't really exist does it? At least not equally. I mean, why pick a salad when you can have a combo meal a lot less? It's certainly a model that prays on those strapped for cash. They literally penalize you for making the healthier choice to switch your beverage to bottled water by paying more for something that is actually cheaper. Nope. There really are no healthier choices in those places. Only the illusion of choice.

This isn't some elitist rant asking for the eradication of fast food and I'm not telling anyone what to do. This is a very personal thing I'm sharing here. I still eat fast food and plenty of it but changes have to be made. Cook cannot be a 4 letter word. My wife has agreed that we need to make more home-cooked meals but I have to step up my game as well. As the resident Chef of the house I'm gonna have to put more effort on this. I see my daughter's whining over soda or saying they don't like something my wife cooked without trying it because they'd rather have some burger, that is my fault.

The line has been drawn.

If you want to learn more about the documentary you can see the trailer at 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Year of the Athlete

New Year, new goals.

You know running has become an important part of your life when an injury makes you commit to running with even more resolve instead of making you back away. When the doctor said I needed to cross-train and that things were probably going to get better as I lost more weight, I started drawing up a strategy for the new year right there and there. Also, when he mentioned cycling as one of the best ways to train without big impact to the knee, I also knew it was time to finally find a way to pull the trigger and get a bike. You guys know I have been moping around and complaining about how expensive they are but I want to do a triathlon and well, they are pretty hard to do without one. So now that you met The Machine on my last post, here are my plans for 2015.

Weight loss moves up the queue

I have made it a point up until now, to not focus on weight loss. Obsessing about the scale has been my downfall in the past. So far it has worked to a certain degree. I have certainly lost weight and it has been slow which is good. I have also slipped a couple of times, especially after the Disney Marathon. All the while, I have just let it happen and in hindsight, it has worked to a point but circumstances have changed. As my running has improved and I get somewhat faster (a relative term if there has ever been one) the stress I put on my knee is greater. If I intend to keep improving without making things worse, I have to move things along a bit quicker. It will make me faster and it will help me run better.

It will also help me look a bit less ridiculous in running/cycling/tri clothing. I mean, why does everything have to be so... tight!

So, one of the goals for 2015 will be to lose 50 pounds. That's roughly one pound a week which is pretty conservative while still moving things along. I can't say I'm not concerned about this one but I have reached that point where giving this more priority will be crucial to move forward.


After running over 700 miles in 2013, I fell way short of my goal of 800 miles for 2014. Yes, I had knee trouble but it still stings to not being able to achieve that one. However, I don't see any problems with upping the stakes this year. Some might remember that I intend to run the Goofy Challenge in 2016 so there are plenty of miles ahead in my future. While it's still not set in stone (there are some family decisions to be made. I'll explain later.) that I will be going, it's only sensible to proceed as if I am for sure. So, I think aiming for 1,000 miles this year is perfectly doable.Consistency will be key to making this one work but it will nice to get some payback on that missed 2014 goal.

And since we are cycling...

I'm new to this so it's hard to put a number here. The distances are greater and they pile on quickly. However, cycling is only part of the equation this year so it's not the only thing I will be doing. I'm thinking 1,500 miles but it's written with a pencil at best. It might need adjusting as I dive deeper in the cycling pool. If I go over this, great but if I fall under, that's OK too. Stay tuned.

Triathlon at last!

Well now that The Machine is here, it's finally time to aim for a tri. I have the training program set up and I'm getting acclimated to the bike. I'm thinking one in the summer would be awesome. I'm scared, but it's a good scared. The road to achieve this one is gonna be plenty fun.

Doing a tri this year has two purposes: The first is simply my goal of doing a tri. It's just something I want to do and the challenge appeals to my brain. It's such a technical thing that requires planning and training and it makes me giddy with excitement. The second is I want to branch out and cross-train. I truly think training for a tri will make me a better runner. Cycling and swimming will allow me to work on my cardio fitness without having to run all the time. Running on consecutive days has always been a trouble spot for me. I try to listen to my body and whenever I string together two or more consecutive runs, it just doesn't "feel" right. By cross-training, I get in more volume without stressing my joints too hard. At least that's the plan. 

Long term, I'm hoping by losing the weight, it will allow me to focus on running more often and therefore letting me achieve a goal I set long term, to run the Goofy Challenge, which means running the Disney Half Marathon and Full Marathon on consecutive days.

Racing, of course...

Notice I didn't mention any specific races. I'm still figuring out where and when to race and as soon as I have the dates I will share as always but I'm crossing my fingers to do at least two Half-Marathons this year. As I've mentioned before, they are a little hard to come by here in Puerto Rico as well as full marathons but hopefully I can do a Half early in the year and then another in the fall/winter as a prelude to the Goofy Challenge.

So in closing, three big goals for 2015: Lose weight, Triathlon and Goofy Challenge training. I think that will keep my plate full most of the year, don't you think?

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Fat Runner in the The Machine

We start 2015 with a big announcement. As those of you who follow me on Instagram already got to see, I finally bought a road bike! It was a very long time coming and I can forget about buying anything for any occasion for the next several years but I finally got a bike. 

World, meet The Machine.

It's a Giant Defy 1 road bike. Right off the bat, let me say I love the name of the bike. Defy. Words to live by here in The Fat Runner. Here's a fun fact: Not being able to buy something right away gives you plenty of time to obsess about the details. And folks, I obsessed.

Bikes are expensive and at least in my case, not something you are gonna buy often. I wanted to make sure I was getting as much bang for my buck as possible. I wanted to still be in love with the bike 5 years from now and beyond. So I drew up a list of specifications of what I thought the bike needed to have in order for my conscience to be clean. What ensued was me diving off the deep end of the cycling world, consuming everything I could about bikes and how they are made and how they work. By the time I actually bought the bike, I knew more than many of the people in the bike shops about the models I looked at.

 Essentially, this was my list of requirements. There might be stuff there some of you might not be familiar with but that's OK, I'll explain things as they come up during the year.

1. Aluminum frame - Carbon fiber is like, THE material of choice for modern bikes but they are way too expensive. Aluminum is light and sturdy. Important in my case where the weight of the rider is an issue.

2. Endurance geometry - Different bikes have different shapes depending on the needs of the rider. "Faster" bikes have a more aggressive shape that makes you sit lower and further forward. Endurance (or sportive or comfort bikes among other names) bikes are not as upright as hybrid or recreational bikes but not as aggressive as the racier models. I thought this was important. Since I have no previous experience, I did not want to buy a bike that was too aggressive to the point where I just could not hold the position comfortably and end up not riding.

3. Shimano 105 - The components or groupset are the stuff that make the bike work. Brakes, shifters, crank, etc... bike manufacturers usually install these in groups so that everything works together. I knew early on that I wanted at least a 10-speed bike and at the bottom of that you have Shimano Tiagra which is very good but if I could swing it, I wanted the groupset above that one, Shimano 105. The higher the groupset, the lighter, smoother and more durable it is. From the time I started checking bikes out, to the time I actually bought it, there was a model change and Shimano 105 went from 10-speed to 11 speed. Score!

4. Carbon fork - Aluminum has a reputation for being harsh on the road. Most manufacturers work around this problem by installing a carbon fork. It's the thingy that holds the front wheel. This helps damp the ride which helps a lot, especially in longer rides. The Machine comes with a carbon seat tube as well as the fork. Bonus!

Right from the start, the Defy jumped at me. It really had everything I was looking for but it was at the very top of my budget limit so I tried very hard to find other options and try to save some bucks. I saw many bikes in the category and if you are shopping for one they are all pretty good. Bianchi Impulso, Scott Speedster, Cannondale Synapse, Trek Domane are some of the bikes you can check out.

But in the end, the Defy's reputation won me over. It's like the Honda Accord of bikes. It always seems to win it's category in magazine awards and it comes very well recommended so I decided to spend a bit more money and go for the "sure thing".

And so far I could not be happier. Road bikes look "weak". Even at this level, they are very light and streamlined compared to what you find at your local mega store so I was obviously concerned about it holding my weight. But I didn't need  to. Once on it, the bike feels sturdy and very stable. Riding this after riding my wife's mountain bike for a while last year, is akin to going from a Ford Pinto to driving a Ferrari Enzo. It's pretty amazing. I used to be afraid of shifting on any bike. The ensuing "rat-tat-tat... clank!" that came with it felt like the bike would brake at any moment but on this one, it just happens effortlessly. "Click." and that's it.

I will share more as I get more used to riding. You guys are in for a few laughs for sure as I talk about butt pain, cycling gear and many other things. Oh, and why did I name it The Machine? Well, in fitness in general and endurance sports -especially triathlon- in particular, people talk about "the engine", which amounts to your ability to propel yourself forward whether it's swimming, running or cycling. Well, if I'm "the engine" and engines power machines, then I'm the engine and the bike is The Machine. OK, it's a bit dorky but I can't help it.