Jelly Roll

There are many good things about training. The first of them is the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a long ride, or finally being able to breathe in the water, or running under a 12:00 pace for a 5k. All accomplishments I have seen over the last 7 seasons, but along with these good things, there are usually corresponding not so good things.

I don’t say bad things because in the grand scheme they are not “bad”.

The first thing that pops to mind is the weight loss. Yes, I know … those that have read my stuff for a while have heard me bitch and moan about my inability to lose weight, or at least lose weight consistently (because going from 313 to 276 is a loss). The weight comes off, grudgingly, slowly, pound by pound, only to inch back up on occasion as if my body is telling me “don’t get too full of yourself, buddy, I control you still”.

But what I have noticed is a whole new issue.

When I was at my heaviest I took some pride (believe it or not … amazing how a person can find pride in negative things) in that my belly was not “flabby”. I carried all of my weight in my gut (not uncommon for a guy) but I still had decent muscle mass in chest and legs, so my midsection, though huge, was HARD. Tight as a drum. And here’s the thing … now that some of the weight has come off, the stomach has become flabby. And it is refusing to tighten up.

This is my body again saying:

“See? we will allow you to lose weight but we will keep this jelly roll on you so that you remember we were here!”

The body can be a real bastard.

So, anyway, on another point …

Throughout the years I have ridden three different road bikes (a borrowed LeMonde, a Scott Speedster, and now my Litespeed C1), a mountain bike (a refurbished Giant frame), and a Scott Plasma 20 TT bike (now sold to a new home). There are differences, and in the course of these years I have come up with a list for riding … lessons learned if you will. They are:

    • It is much easier to stand on a TT bike than a road bike. I am not sure why this is … maybe just the way your body sits on it.
    • If you plan on racing and riding in hills, invest in a compact crankset and an 11-28 cassette. Once I changed my Litespeed over it made a world of difference.
    • All bikes must be named and all names should show at least a little bit of creativity (i.e. naming a Bianchi “Bianchi” or a black bike “Blackie” is … boring). My bikes are/were: Scott Speedster was “Mario”. Litespeed C1 is “Buzz” (like Buzz Litespeed. OK, I thought it was funny). Scott Plasma 20 was “Gunner” and the Giant mountain bike is “Buster” because he busts my balls going over rough terrain and jumps.
    • It’s fun riding in aero going downhill (even if it’s a bit scary), though the control, or feeling of control, you have on a road bike makes it a bit less scary.
    • Love Bugs taste better than grasshoppers. This might just be a palate issue.
    • In that vein, learn to ride with mouth closed and breathe, Nuke Style, through my eyelids.
    • There is something deeply gratifying getting off the bike and having sweat drip off you like a river. This may be a Florida thing, but sweating like that is … manly.
    • Braking takes longer on a Tri Bike … adjust accordingly. Just trust me on that one.

So … things are coming along. So many people helping me, from Team in Training Alumni’s to Meghan Collins-Fanning, to Facebook followers, and to listeners of the podcast. They have been awesome, and when the motivations wane, as it tends to do, they are the ones that pull you out and push you to the next level. This has been an awesome adventure so far.

I just wish I had started sooner.

Injuries and Adrenal Fatigue – Can You Train Through Either?


Author’s Note: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Information in this post is from my own research from as reputable sites as I could find. If you have better information, please feel free to share, as long as you cite your sources.


Athletes can be a stubborn bunch. Even those of us that should know better, that coach or advise others, tend to not follow the best practices when it comes to injuries.

You know who I am talking about.

When we are training for a specific goal, a target race, the only “A Race” on our schedule, nothing will deter us from those long training days, the early morning sprints around the neighborhood, the sneaking out of work early to get a swim in before a scheduled bike ride. Miles or Time in training equals success on race day, so the inverse must also be true, basically, that time or miles lost during the training period costs us on trace day. We will run through small aches and pains to the point that we are hobbled, then after an evening of ice, compression, and elevation, get right back out there the next day and do it again.

The trick is when is it time to say “enough”?

We are a short-sighted bunch. We either refuse to see the big picture or are so narrowly focused on the end event that we just don’t see it. We only see “today” and do not take into account what happens tomorrow if we continue to train through an injury. A slight tweak in an Achilles is run through until it changes from a “hurt” to an “injury”. When I played football the coach would always ask us as we lay writhing on the ground if we were hurt or injured. Back in the late 70’s when I played this was a HUGE distinction. If you are hurt, you can play, and if you can’t play, then you are replaced, and possibly never getting back on the field. This happened to me my last year of playing against New Smyrna Beach (damn them ‘Cudas). I was chasing a running back (#44 – will never forget that number) down the sideline and leaped at him just as he was about to score, grabbing him by the back of the shoulder pads (something that is illegal in today’s game). I snapped him backward (though not in time since he did cross the goal line) and I went flying into the spectator area, which was very close to the sidelines. I rolled a number of times before coming to a sudden stop against the concrete. When I got up I felt that my knee was off, but I limped back into the huddle for the extra point attempt. Back in these days, there was very little kicking, so they went for 2, using the same running back and I met him coming through the middle of the line, just as he planted his helmet directly to the same kneecap.

I couldn’t get up. My knee would not bend. A couple of teammates helped me to the sideline and sat me on the bench. My Defensive Backs coach came over and asked if I was OK. I told him “I can’t bend my leg”. He shook his head at me, swore, and yelled “Ingram … get in there for Harris” and walked away. I sat there for a few minutes, scared to pull my pants up to see what was there before the trainer came over. I leaned against the trainer we had as he pulled up my pants. My kneecap was about an inch off center. He looked at me and said “grit your teeth” which I did as he grabbed the knee and pushed it back in place, telling me it was “just dislocated” and would be OK. “Just ice it”. Since we lost that game (we played on Thursday nights) we had a practice the next day. I hobbled into my head coach’s office and told him I didn’t think I could go. All the coaches looked at each other, and then he said “fine … sit on the bench” without ever looking at me. I walked away, hearing them laughing when I closed the door, and never saw the starting lineup again.

So, when I feel a tweak, it is my first instinct to try to push through it. One day, to me, could mean not making the lineup, in this case, not starting the race. When I hear of others that have a nagging issue I am the first one to tell them to sit out, to rest, that losing one training day is better than losing the whole year, but I am the worst culprit. I am not alone. I know coaches who say the same thing to me yet are out running or biking on injuries themselves. As I said .. we are our own worst enemies.

Sometimes the injuries are evident, like a sprained ankle, a plantar fasciitis issue, a swollen knee, but often they are not, especially when we are dealing with true adrenal fatigue (AF). Once your cortisol levels drop to zero, there is no recovering from that other than taking time off. You cannot “train through it”. The issue is recognizing AF is not always easy, because it can feel amazingly like just being tired, or over-trained. So you take a day off, maybe two, and then hit it as hard as you can once more. And it is just as bad, or worse, than before.


What is Adrenal Fatigue?


From the Adrenal Fatigue website, AF is defined as a collection of signs and symptoms that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level, most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

Pretty scary stuff right? I wonder how many of you reading this right now are walking around with it and never knew it? Dr. John Tinterra, a medical doctor who specialized in low adrenal function, said in 1969 that he estimated that approximately 16% of the public could be classified as severe, but that if all indications of low cortisol were included, the percentage would be more like 66%.

And this was in 1969 … you know … BEFORE the internet, 24/7/365 work days, terrorism, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Donald Trump, etc. Imagine what the numbers would be today??

The problem is this; although adrenal exhaustion is a real medical condition that can be measured through blood tests, adrenal “fatigue” is not. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms, and there is no test that can identify adrenal fatigue (http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/myth-vs-fact/adrenal-fatigue).

Eric Metcalf, MPH writes (and reviewed by Dr. Brunilda Nazario) on WebMD that:

Adrenal fatigue is a term that’s used by some to say that fatigue and other symptoms are caused by a poorly working adrenal gland in people who are under mental, emotional, or physical stress. But it’s not a proven medical condition. Your adrenal glands make hormones. One of these is cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress. According to the adrenal fatigue theory, if your life is too stressful, your adrenal glands may not pump out enough hormones, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. But there’s no evidence to support this theory. (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real)

Robert Vigersky, MD, a past president of the Endocrine Society, says the symptoms are very common in people in general. Though people often blame their hormonal glands, such as the adrenals or thyroid, for their tiredness, Vigersky says in many cases fatigue is due to common problems such as:

  • Poor sleep habits
  • Poor diet
  • Stress at work or home
  • Depression

All of these can affect your energy level without involving your adrenal glands. Fatigue is also a symptom of many diseases such as anemia, arthritis, diabetes, and heart failure, says Janet McGill, MD a hormone specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.

I know this … I fit into every symptom of adrenal fatigue but mine is due to 2 of the 4 (maybe 3 of the four) common problems, in addition to having psoriatic arthritis and no thyroid due to cancer. Adrenal Fatigue is a new buzzword (much like Celiac, where people want to be Gluten Free, but most are not actual Celiac diagnosed … ) so when someone throws that at you … take it for what it’s worth and get checked out before buying supplements. Do your homework, and do what is best for you using an intelligent mind. Lots of information is at your fingertips these days. There’s no excuse for being misinformed. And remember, just because the medical establishment doesn’t recognize something as a disease doesn’t mean it is not real (for example Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease were not recognized for a long time, and the effects of Low T is not agreed upon as well).

And if you’re tired … how about resting?

Just a thought …

Health and the 300-Pound Man

A large portion of a new lifestyle is getting your crap together. By that, I mean deciding that enough is enough and making the effort to change your way of thinking and living. Although hard, it is not as difficult as you may think, once the initial “lethargy” ends after your body readjusts. The hard part is facing the shaking heads, the tuts and clicks of tongues, from people who at first ask you how your losing so much weight, and then when you tell them how, proceed to tell you how that is not going to work, despite having proof right in front of them to the contrary.

It is amazing to me the reaction you get from people, especially those closest to you when you try to share with them what you have been doing to lose weight. It’s as if they take offense to the fact that you are improving yourself like they are being personally attacked. They tell you all sorts of things:

You’re neglecting your family!

You’re obsessed and that is not healthy!

You’ve become a zealot!

They don’t see the full picture.

I do not feel 55. It is shocking to me to think I am in my mid-50’s. I look in the mirror and do not see an old man. I have very little gray, and the gray I have is in my beard. I have a full head of hair. I have no wrinkling. The man looking back at me cannot be 55!

But, alas, he is …

And this is where my concern for friends and family come in …

When you go through life you expect certain things to happen. You expect at some point to bury your grandparents. You expect to bury your parents. But as the oldest in my generation, I do not expect to bury sisters, brothers, cousins, children, etc. I should be the first to go. Now, I know life doesn’t work that way. I am not naive. The older you get, though, no matter how you look or feel, the more you are faced with the reality of your own mortality.

At the age of 46, I was 313 pounds. Something clicked one day, and I decided that I was not going to be 300 pounds anymore. My younger brother, Michael, who has always been active, said it best to me once.

“If I am going to die young it will not be because of something I could have prevented.”

As I stood looking at myself in the mirror that day I understood what he meant. At this point, we had both had our cancer scares (mine was thyroid, his testicular). The only difference being that mine did cause weight gain. The wrong part was that I used that fact to explain my laziness and slothfulness and to dismiss it as an effect of cancer.

Don’t get me wrong. Anyone that has had thyroid cancer, or even hypothyroidism, will attest to the fact that it really screws you up. You feel tired all the time. You can’t focus. The last thing you want to do after working all day is to get on a bike or go out for a run. The “will” may be there, but not strong enough to get over the lethargy that sets in. But the result in my doing nothing was a weight gain of 120 pounds.

Shortly after this decision to end this spiral I was driving home and heard a radio show with a local doctor talking about the thyroid issue and its effect on testosterone production. Even though he was not in my insurance plan, I made an appointment and paid out of pocket for the test and consultation. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Not only was my thyroid meds out of whack, but my T level was also 97. So after adjusting the Thyroid and adding T Therapy, the weight started dropping. He was also the one that initially suggested that I sign up for a triathlon that was a year away (Escape from Fort DeSoto 2011).

I did.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

My weight leveled off for a year, and that’s where I discovered, though my Triathlon Coach, the Vinnie Tortorich podcast and Jon Smith and Debbie Potts on Fit Fat Fast (Debbie is now solo at The Whole Athlete podcast), and through that the books “Wheat Belly”, “Good Calorie Bad Calorie”, “Fat Chance” and a few more. After changing my eating lifestyle to No Sugar and No Grains (#NSNG) the weight started falling off again. In addition, my energy levels shot through the roof, and I was finding that my body was recovering from workouts, even long strenuous ones, much faster.

So, a breakthrough, and one I should share right?

That did not sit well with a few people. They try to poke holes in the eating method. They say it won’t work. “Calorie in calorie out” is the only true method, they posture.

The problem is that, even though I am standing right in front of them as proof that “calorie in-calorie out”, while indeed based on sound science, is not the only factor, it doesn’t phase them in the least. They stick to their food pyramid. You can show them the science, point them in the direction of numerous studies and academic papers explaining how wheat and sugar increases fat storage in the body, and they still stick to the old thinking.

“Go to a long distance Triathlon or Marathon, and after all the svelte and elite runners come through, wait and see the runners crossing the finish line at hour 7, 8, 10. They’ve all put in the work. They have finished their race. And the majority are still overweight.” ~ Vinnie Tortorich, Fitness Confidential

That was paraphrased, by the way.

The proof, as grandma would say, is in the pudding.

But you still read Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds, about people “carb loading” before a race (which has been proven NOT to work), or indulging in bad eating because “they burned it off during their workout”.

It’s all BS.

A wise woman told me once that I cannot take it personally when people listen to you and still go the other direction. All you can do is offer advice, and hope they listen, but if they don’t, then that’s their choice.

It’s a good way to think, and easy to do when it’s the odd man on the street or casual acquaintance. Not so easy when it is someone you care about. I want these people around me for a long time still. I don’t want to see them in a box. I’d prefer, as is the course of life, for them to see me in the box. I don’t think they understand that this is the place I am coming from … maybe selfish on my part because I don’t want them to leave me that way … but it comes from a true place.

You Are What You Eat

As I have progressed through the last 7+ years from a 300 pounds couch potato (mmm potato) to a more active athlete the biggest change I have made has not been in the amount of activity I have on a weekly and daily basis (though that has been significant), but more about the way and what I put into my mouth every day.

It has not been easy.

There are days that a pizza calls to me like a siren calling a sailor to his death. When I walked out of the gym where I used to swim, directly across the parking lot is a 5 Guys Burger.

Damn, I really wanted that burger.

But, for the most part, I have been able to push these cravings aside and eat sensibly. I have made some missteps here and there. I am only human. But the trick I have found is not to fall off the wagon and stay off. You need to get right back on that wagon, not the next day, but immediately after you do it.

As most know my weight issues started with my cancer diagnosis in 1994. I went from 180 pounds and peaked at 313. At 313 pounds I decided that enough was enough. I could blame it on cancer, and continue to not try to stop the progress, totally give in and stay on the couch, eating my potato chips that were balanced on my ample gut, and watch The Biggest Loser. I actively sought out a doctor that specialized in weight management. I was tired of hearing the same old story about how my body would never be what it was and that I needed to take the Synthroid and learn to cope with what I was dealt.

No. Not any more.

I was given a full panel of blood work and they found that not only were my TSH levels all out of whack, but my Testosterone levels were at 165 (they are currently at 212). I addition, what little T I had was being overly converted to estrogen, which basically put me in starvation mode and made me hoard fat.

Not good at all.

So I was switched to natural thyroid, put on a weekly regimen of T injections, and given medication to block the estrogen production. Immediately I dropped 25 pounds, and I mean within two weeks. I felt better even at a heavyweight of 270. I completed my first triathlon at that weight, but all it really did was give me the boost I needed to not only maintain my new activities but to strive for that goal weight of 200 pounds I thought was out of reach.

The weight continued to drop until I reached a low point of 236 in the Winter of 2011. By January 2012 I was again 255 pounds, and I am currently at 275. The frustrating thing is that I am doing nothing different than I was initially; I am actually eating even better than I was, I work out 4-5 days a week, and have completed a marathon, a number of half marathons, and 5 half Ironman and 70.3’s. My calorie deficit each day averages 750, which means I should be losing 2 pounds a week. But I am not. I am gaining weight.

I think my body is just very temperamental. I tried juicing and was told by some that juicing is not as good as I thought. I tried Fitlife Foods, which are actually very good meals but can’t afford to keep doing that. Am I doomed to just battle this every day until I can no longer compete, then just gain all the weight back and end up at the end no better off than I was when I started?

It is very discouraging, to say the least, more so because I feel I am doing everything right at least 90% of the time but not getting the results. I have still yet to find someone who can explain to me how a small slice of cake weighing less than 3 ounces turns into 1.5-pound weight gain the next morning.

I mean, how is that even mathematically possible??

Another issue with nutrition is finding what works for you. Those of you currently competing in triathlons, or other endurance races, know that the supplements are not cheap, and if you dole out $50 for a vat of protein powder that you don’t like, or worse that doesn’t like you, well … that’s a lot of money to just throw down the toilet (pun intended).

So, as far as nutrition goes, I keep trying to learn as much as possible. Reading books. Watching documentaries. Talking to fellow athletes. Anything I can to pick up on a tip or two. Everyone has an opinion, and so many contradict each other (Carbs bad! No! Carbs GOOD!) but what it comes down to is eating well and finding out what works for YOU.

  • Eat natural foods that are full of color.
  • If Man had a hand in it, leave it alone.
  • No fast food.

Pretty simple rules …

Now if only the weight would follow …