Tackling the Bandit Ultra Trail Run

trail run training with Marcos and Canek- Bandit Ultra Trail Run
Trail run training with Marcos Vargas and Canek Pena-Vargas in Simi Valley

On February 16, 2014 I’ll be tackling the Bandit Ultra Trail Run 30K race in Simi Valley. This is a huge stretch for me. A year ago today I was about 35 pounds heavier and my idea of a workout was finishing up a package of cookies on the couch. A diabetes diagnosis helped turn me around and set me off on a fitness journey.

I was originally going to run the Seaside Half Marathon in February but when my friend and Executive Director of CAUSE, Marcos Vargas, said that he was going to do the 30K at Bandit, I knew I had to join him. I did the Santa to the Sea Half Marathon in December and this will be my first 30K race.

This will also be the first time I do fundraising and it’s for an organization I know very well. I have been volunteering for CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy) for the past several years. I’ve served on the Community Building Luncheon committee for the past few years, have precinct walked and helped support CAUSE in community organizing efforts including here in my hometown of Santa Paula. CAUSE’s mission is to build grassroots power to invoke social, economic and environmental justice for the people of California’s Central Coast region. In Santa Paula we fought to start a community garden and CAUSE and the community has just successfully won a new park in an under-served part of Ventura.

You can be a “Run Jesse Run” 30K Justice Sponsor by donating to the CAUSE effort to build a pipeline of passionate young organizers and the next generation of movement leaders. Building a pipeline of talented community organizers and leaders is super important as cities and communities struggle to provide environments that are socially, economically and environmentally just.

Please consider serving as one of my 30K trail run sponsors at the $10, $25, $50, or $100 level. Click here to show support as I tackle this large personal challenge and the challenge to improve our communities.

Your sponsorship is tax deductible.

Here’s a link to more information on the Bandit Ultra Trail Run.

This is a great article by CAUSE researcher/organizer Lucas Zucker on the need for activating young people to get involved.

Photo of me and another CAUSE volunteer, Adrian, doing some precinct walking in 2010 to support an important measure and tell my neighbors about the community garden idea.
precinct walking in Santa Paula for CAUSE

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#OAKLANDVOICES Reaches Out to FCC Chairman Wheeler at Town Hall

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler at #OaklandVoices Town Hall in Oakland
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler made his first town hall appearance since being appointed to the role by President Obama some three months ago. Chairman Wheeler attended the Oakland Voices (hashtag “#OaklandVoices”) town hall in Oakland on Thursday, January 9 in front of 100 community activists and reporters. The standing-room-only event took place at Preservation Park in downtown Oakland and was organized by Voices for Internet Justice, a collaboration of almost 30 organizations including The Center for Media Justice, Free Press, ColorOfChange and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

The event was true to its billing, many voices with different issues spoke up to point out that people of color are often left out of the decision-making process, yet often disproportionately impacted by FCC decisions and practices.

Center for Media Justice Executive Director Malkia Cyril (@culturejedi on Twitter) set the tone by making sure it was clear that this was a community event, not an FCC event.

 
Several speakers spoke up in support of the Universal Lifeline program, a state and federal program that helps low-income families access phone services at a discounted rate. California Public Utilities Commissioner Catherine Sandoval pointed out that in California residents are required to provide the last four digits of their Social Security Numbers, creating a barrier to undocumented residents, even though “telcos” are happy to have them as regular subscribers, regardless of their documented status. Sandoval urged Commissioner Wheeler to remove the SSN requirement.

Another issue that came up was that of the ridiculously large telephone charges for calls from prisons. Christina Mansfield of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) pointed out that many detained immigrants are held without representation, and the additional high costs of making phone calls puts them that much further away from getting fair treatment in our prison and justice system.

Edyael Casaperalta from the Center for Rural Strategies spoke up during the community question period about broadband access in rural areas. As someone who lives in a rural area, I certainly agree that we have fewer broadband options than urban areas.

There was also a group of protesters who were there to speak out against the harms of wireless radiation. One protester wore a Grim Reaper costume and another wore a giant cellphone outfit while holding a “No Humor In a Brain Tumor” sign.

Cellphones cause tumors?

All in all, about 20 community members took to the microphone and voiced their concerns. Afterwards, Chairman Wheeler showed that he was paying attention by commenting on a couple of speakers and their issues.

In Wheeler’s final statements he didn’t reveal anything in terms of his position on the Open Internet or what he plans to do in the future in response to an upcoming U.S. Federal Court of Appeals decision in Verizon V. FCC.

I listened in on several conversations after the town hall let out and most were asking whether this really made an impact on Wheeler in regards to any future decisions. The way I look at it, Wheeler showed up to meet with active community members and that is a good start. Will he care? Community organizers across the nation will have to do their work and make him care.

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Just Ran the Santa To The Sea Half Marathon

Nine months ago I was 40 pounds heavier and if you would have told me that I’d run in and complete a half marathon before Christmas I would have said that you were crazy.

After 5 weeks of intense training, I ran in the Santa To The Sea Half Marathon race in Oxnard, California. When I found out that some friends were going to run the race I was very interested. I initially signed up for the 5K run but then chose to go for the half marathon.

The Santa To The Sea races have history here in the Ventura County area and the registration includes contributions to several charity groups in the area. We also dropped off a present for local kids. My wife helped me pick out the gift, a pink skateboard.

Race Day
The half marathon starts at a large Santa just south of Rice Ave in Oxnard, just off HWY 101. But first we had to park a couple of miles North where there was more parking at the new The Collection shopping center. As soon as I got to the parking lot I made a bee line for the nearby Starbucks to use the restroom. Unlike previous to training runs, I had a huge container of water before leaving home. I thought I might need the extra hydration but it ended up being more of a problem than it was worth, I think.

After pit stop #1 at Starbucks, I grabbed my sparkly skateboard gift and hopped on a shuttle to head over to the starting line. A few short minutes later we arrived and I had to hit the porta potty again. The actual finish line was about a quarter mile away so I made my way over and it was pretty packed. Over 2,000 would be in this race.

I dropped off the present and took some photos and shot video of the scene.

After running into a few people that I knew, I got in the 2:30 pace group and tried to get my Nike running app setup for the start. After fumbling around with the watch for a while it kept cutting out. I thought I got it going OK and started it a few seconds before the race started. Oh, and I had to pee again. Not good.

The race started down an unevenly paved road so I stayed in the middle of the road until we got to the Del Norte Ave bridge. As we ran over the bridge you could see the massive stream of runners out front as far as the eye could see. It was a beautiful site and several people stopped to take a quick photo. I didn’t want to mess with my running app so didn’t take a shot.

A few days before the race my wife, Belén, and I went out to drive the course so I was pretty familiar with all the mile marker areas but as the minutes passed by the running app didn’t call out the first mile. Then I hit the mile 2 marker and I knew my app hadn’t started correctly. This could have thrown me off completely since I’ve been relying on data to help with workouts and study my splits. I let go of the frustration and set out to just run my race.

I used my heart rate readings to help guide when I would slow to a brisk walk and when I would run. The plan was to run the first 8 miles just a bit faster than I did during training workouts then at mile 8 I’d take it up a gear. But, by mile 5 I really had to use the loo again and had to make another pit stop right next to Cesar Chavez school, around mile 6.

It was a comical scene. There were about 6 people waiting in line to use the bathroom and a great group of around 20 students were right next to the bathrooms playing mariachi music. Folks in line were shuffling from right to left, either to help “hold it,” to keep warm legs or a combination of the two – all to the beat of the playing music.

A song and a half was played before I got back to running. At this point I pretty much got rid of any hope of having a “really good time for a first time runner” race time. My original goal was just to finish but now it was very loosely to finish within 3 hours.

As I pulled away I noticed a woman who had also stopped to “check the tires” and she started to pull away. I kept to my pace and figured I’d catch up to her later since I had been hanging with her for the first half of the race.

Halfway Point
Just after mile 6 there was another bridge and this one is more of a climb, taking runners from the La Colonia part of town to downtown Oxnard. I walked a good chunk of the hill. The halfway point was at the top of the bridge and I was at 1:26 at that point. I was in good shape to come in under 3 hours even with the earlier pit stop.

Because I had to go to the restroom early on the race, I hadn’t been drinking any water, either from my water bottle or from the aid stations. By mile 7 I started sipping water again and when I got close to mile 8 I stated to feel as if my side was going to cramp up so instead of picking up the running pace I decreased the amount of time I was walking.

There’s a long stretch down Wooley Road that looked like it might be intimidating when we drove the course. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and just focused on my running form, the next steps and after a while I stated catching up to people who were in my running cluster before the pit stop. That felt pretty good but I noticed that some of those people were really having a tough time. Although I didn’t know what their stories were, I felt that those were “my people.” One couple that I recognized had the dude out front running then he’d slow way down to encourage his lady friend. They were cruising along fine in the beginning but they were one of the couples I caught up to and the lady friend was struggling.

Around mile 10 I passed a couple of very fit women who had been resting on the side of the road. Together, they were carrying a stretcher with a chair on it with a radio and a drawing of a big Santa. The thing probably weighed 25 pounds and they were carrying this thing the whole way. Pretty hardcore! I noticed they both had Ironman tattoos on their calves. This was a tough challenge but their spirits were up and they were still having fun.

By mile 11 I didn’t feel super strong so I kept at the same running pace and continued to keep the walking part short. I kept passing people up even those who were running at a steady pace. As I approached the one mile mark I recognized the woman who had taken off before me after the pit stop. I think I had seen her pull into another port o potty earlier. I tried to kick things into gear but feared that if I kicked too hard I’d trip or something so I kept at a steady pace.

As I was about 100 yards from the finish line I saw a dude who was limping badly and he had a smile on his face because he was going slow but knew that he was close to finishing. Just behind me I heard some women asking “how far along are you” and realized that the woman who had made the multiple potty stops was behind me and saw that she was about 2 months pregnant. That explained the multiple stops.

I finished in 2 hours and 48 minutes (chip time, 2:50 gun time) and still felt pretty good. I met two of my goals; I ran under 3 hours and ran a negative split, running the second half faster than the first half.

The next big question is which race will be next?

At the finish line!
Jesse Luna at the Santa to the Sea finish line!

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Training For My First Half Marathon #getfit

Jesse Luna - After training run

After losing 40 pounds, controlling my diabetes and running/cycling in a sprint duathlon, all in a few months time period, I ran and finished my first half marathon this past Sunday.

5 weeks ago I decided to run in the Santa To The Sea race which includes a half marathon and relay, 5K and a fun 1K run. Several people told me about the fun race to help local charities and provide presents and scholarships for local kids and I was in. My nephew wanted to run with me so I signed up for the 5K. I figured this would be a chance for me to work on my speed as I trained for the 2014 Camarillo Duathlon series.

I started running with purpose but didn’t have a specific plan. I just wanted to get out there and see where I was. After a few days it became clear that my nephew wasn’t ready to jump on board the race and I had other friends ask why I wasn’t doing the half marathon.

I thought back to the sprint duathlon in October where I ran 5K and cycled 11 miles. A half marathon meant I would run the entire distance. And, I would only have 5 weeks to train and be able to be on my feet up to three hours for the long 13.1+ mile race. It sounded like a good challenge so I switched my registration and signed up for the half marathon.

The Training Plan
The first thing I did was to start looking around for a good 5-week training plan. I found some great training tips on several different sites and the biggest takeaway was that I should take at least 10 if not 12 weeks to prepare for the race.

I took the best practice tips from different sources and put together a training plan that I thought would work for me and my work schedule. I wanted to build the running habit so I would run at least 3 times a week a minimum of 3 miles and do a larger run on the weekend.

On Week One, I started with a 3 mile run on Tuesday, a 2 mile run on Wednesday, a 3 mile run on Thursday and a larger 7 mile run on Sunday. The initial plan was to get me to a maximum big run of 11 miles. Running wisdom said that if I could get to 11 miles then “the spirit” would carry me to the end of the race. But, at the same time, I kept hearing about people who did a full 12 week training plan and only got to 10 or 11 miles and ended up hitting a wall at 11 miles during their actual race. I didn’t want to hit the wall so I decided to accelerate the accelerated plan and increase the big runs by 2 miles each week until I did the full 13 miles.

By Week Three, I was doing mostly 3 and 4 mile runs during the week and then I made the mistake of making too many changes during one run. I wore new running shoes, tried to reduce my heel strike, changed my arm swing and BLAM, felt a jolt of pain shoot up my calf. I was at mile 1 in that run and immediately turned around to head back to the car. As I hobbled back I felt a little better and even tried a light jog but felt the sharp pain again. I thought about whether I should go straight to urgent care and have a doctor look at things.

I started googling around and self-diagnosed myself with a minor calf tear. After going to work for a few hours, in pain, I decided to go into the doctor’s office and have it looked at. My regular doctor was unavailable so I saw a different doctor. We had some issues communicating effectively and my diagnosis was someone unclear. Was it an Achilles strain? I wasn’t clear but was given instructions to get off the leg and apply RICE – rest, ice, elevation and compression. I took the advice and went home to get some rest.

I was very disappointed that I had rushed things by trying to make too many changes at once. After a day of TLC from my wife I was feeling much better the next day and made it into work with an ice pack and ankle support that covered some of my calf. I kept checking running sites and figured that it was simply a calf strain. A couple of days later I was able to do a short run but took off several days from running and missed my third long run day. By the next Tuesday I went back to the training plan and took things easy. By the end of the week I didn’t feel any pain and went out for a long weekend run which was largely without problems.

In the Zone
A large part of my training strategy was to focus on my heart rate while training. I’ve heard good and bad things about using heart rate measures for training but because I’m still on a fitness journey from couch to an active lifestyle, I figured that would be the best approach. So for all of my training I kept things simple and made all of my runs at an easy pace. This is sometimes referred to as being at a “conversational pace” because you should be able to run and still have a conversation with someone.

I also used a heart rate monitor and only ran and walked hard enough to keep my heart rate in the 130 beats per minute (BPM) to 160 BPM range. This is a pretty broad range but is towards the lower easy range. 85% of my workouts were in the 135-145 BPM which often meant that if it got too close to 160 BPM that I would slow to a brisk walk. This run-walk strategy helped me increase my time on my feet, keep expanding my long weekend runs and kept me from getting re-injured.

There are a lot of complex theories on the different training zones and whether or training by heart rate is the best way but it served my training needs so I went with it and was very consistent. It was difficult to stick to it when I felt great running and wanted to “open it up.” I had to reign myself in. When my ego tried to jump in and wanted to go for some speed, I reminded myself that accomplished ultra marathoners often use this same easy pace training strategy to be able to run massive distances. This approach has really helped me improve my endurance engine.

The weekend before the half marathon, I did my last long run and ended up doing 14 miles. I wanted the psychological edge to be able to know that I could do the whole 13.1 miles and then some. I took it easy the last week and tapered the last few days to rest up for the big race. I’ll share the race highlights with you in my next blog post.

Keep in mind that I am not a running trainer nor do I intend to portray myself as one. Training for and running the half marathon was massive challenge physically and mentally. Besides the period where I recovered from my injury, I only missed one workout (not by choice) and increased the length of some workouts. I found myself really loving to run and have been soaking up running wisdom and information everywhere I go.

Besides the personal satisfaction of knowing that I was able to create a plan, stick to it and accomplish something I would have thought almost impossible a few months ago, it has been great seeing others inspired by my training and seeing them become more active. I use the #getfit tag on Twitter and Facebook whenever I did a run so feel free to check out those microposts.

Are you training for a run? I’d love to hear about it.

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In Case You Missed Them, Top #SFBatKid Tweets

It’s amazing to see all the support given to a young boy, Miles, who is being treated to a day he’ll always remember by the Make A Wish Foundation. Miles saw San Francisco transformed today and he went on an adventure as his idol, Batman. The city of San Francisco became Gotham for one special day and the Twittersphere was lighting up over it as it followed and contributed to the #SFBatKid hashtag.

Twitter recently released a new Custom Timeline feature for the Tweetdeck Web application. I thought it would be a great opportunity to test out the custom timeline feature as the Twittersphere followed the courageous adventures of #SFBatKid.

This is a curated list of Twitter tweets from this morning/afternoon.

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Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon and Half 2013

I’m training for the Santa to the Sea half marathon in Oxnard in early December so thought I’d check out the scene in Santa Barbara. I also had a couple of friends running in the Santa Barbara International Veterans Marathon and Half so that was all the reason I needed to head up there and take some photos.

Plus, today is my cross-training day so I took my camera and bike and got in a nice numbers of miles while covering the action.

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Access to Clean Food a Major Social Issue

fresh food

After being diagnosed with diabetes in April, I made some major lifestyle changes and the number one change was to watch what I ate. Daily trips to fast food restaurants, purchasing loads of processed foods and eating sugary foods in endless quantities would have to end.

We’ve heard of and have participated in fundraisers for groups like Charity Water that push for clean water in countries across the world.  Access to clean water is a major health and economic issue. But you don’t have to go far to see those same types of issue come up when it comes to access to clean food.

As I started reading food labels, did personal research and attended diabetes health seminars I started to become more informed on the state of our food supply. 90% of the food items in a super market are chock full of preservatives, excess sugar and full of empty calories. Because I am working on controlling diabetes, I especially notice sugar and carbohydrate content.

I’ve run into the term “shop the outside of the grocery store” several times and it means that most of the healthy foods are physically arranged on the outside of the grocery store. Fresh vegetables, nuts and fruits are always located on the outside portions of a grocery store.

Shopping on the outside of a grocery store is great if you are fortunate enough to live within distance of a grocery store with fresh produce. In many neighborhoods residents have to travel far to access those items and only have convenience stores with little or no produce. And, if you do come across a store with fresh fruits and vegetables, there may not be any options to purchase organic food. Many “fresh” fruits are laden with pesticide residue or have been rendered tasteless by genetic modifications. It’s not your imagination; some of those beautiful jumbo strawberries do only taste like water.

This can often take us to local farmers markets. Once again, if you are fortunate enough to live near a farmers market your options may be few and far between.

What if we all had easy access to fresh organically grown fruits and vegetables? And what if those foods were available in our schools instead of soup-in-a-bag pizza kinds of meals? My last year of teaching elementary school I would often eat in the cafeteria with students. We’d go back to class and an hour later if some students had what might appear to be a study-avoiding belly ache, I’d end up with the same very real symptoms.

A couple of years ago I was involved in a local campaign to advocate for a community garden at one of the local elementary schools. Dozens of community members and parents organized, spoke at school board meetings, and advocated for the garden but it never moved forward with the school district. The goal of the campaign was to empower parents and to provide an appreciation for community food sources. We weren’t trying to supplant the food source of the school, at that time, although providing a local sustainable supply of fresh food would be great. There are organizations that take on this battle and have made progress in some school districts.

Do you have access to fresh fruits and vegetables in your neighborhood? What are some other food issues in your community?

Photo credit: mundoo on Flickrlicense

Posted in Activism, Community, Food and Culture, Health | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

My First Duathlon

Updated October 9, 2013, 6:24 a.m.

This past Sunday, October 6, I competed in my first multi-sport event ever, the Camarillo Duathlon. In my previous post I mentioned that I was training for a triathlon after working hard to release weight and to control my diabetes. I expected that it would take me at least 2-3 months to prepare for a triathlon because of my still-developing swimming skills.

So when I saw that there was a duathlon almost in my backyard and that I only had to run and ride a bike on a mostly flat course, it caught my attention. Instead of using my horrible swimming skills as an excuse for not doing a triathlon, I decided to jump on the duathlon and signed up.

Excuses
The road to inactivity is paved with excuses. I didn’t own a fully-functioning bike, hadn’t run more than a few blocks in years, and still have some extra poundage on me.  I could have used any of these as an excuse to back out of the duathlon but I replaced those excuses with other perspectives.

Ok, I didn’t own a fully-functioning bike let alone one of those rocket ship time trial bikes that others would be using. But I could buy a working hybrid bike for a decent price. Although I hadn’t been running much, I have been taking mile-long walks and doing time on the treadmill consistently for months. Also, I’ve dramatically improved my diet and fitness by working out at the gym and doing tons of cardio and weightlifting. I pretty much knew I’d end up at the bottom of the race pack but knew that I’d have enough in the tank to complete the race.

90% Mental
As Yogi Berra might say, duathlons are 90% mental and the other half physical. I knew my body could complete the race because of the work I’ve done over the past months. I also joked with a co-worker that if I could do a 24 hour round trip rally and lobby visit to Sacramento that I would have enough stamina to complete a duathlon.

THE RACE
As I was doing research for the race, I looked at several YouTube videos where athletes shared their duathlon-cam views of the race, gave tips for how to negotiate transitions and other race-day tips. Several also blogged about their experience on the course so I’ll do the same here in hopes that it might help another first-timer or encourage others to try out multi-sport events.

The First Run
I did the Sprint competition and the Olympic competition had started 20 minutes earlier. As folks started making their way to the starting line for the Sprint race, the Olympic racers zoomed by on their way to their bike leg of the course. You could see the amazement on some faces as the race leader zoomed by in an unreal time. He was smiling as he passed and it brought a smile to my face.


Bill Escobar, going over the race route.

The first 1.5 mile run started out on the street and there is no line on the road or nearby. Everyone just kind of bunches up near the event organizer, Bill Escobar. Bill saw everyone kind of looking around for the starting line, looked around then told everyone the big tree was the starting line. I turned on my Nike Sportwatch GPS feature and hoped that it would connect before the race started and it finally did just before the air horn went off and we all took off. We headed up Eubanks St. then turned on Aviation until it doglegged to the right for another half mile. As I mentioned, I haven’t been doing a ton of running so I did speed walk part of the course. That landed me toward the back of the pack but I was glad that I wasn’t doubled over before getting to the bike. I had the suckiest run of all the men but would fare a tad bit better on the final leg of the run.

Transition 1
The good part of having a hybrid bike (and one of the only ones) was that I didn’t have to change shoes during the transition. I just had to take off my cap, put on my helmet and walk out the bike and I was out in around 32 seconds, the 11th fastest time.

Biking
The biking portion of the race is tons longer than any road biking I’ve done in 35 years. As a child we used to take out bikes all across the city in search of fun and mischief. Now, all these years later I’d be crossing portions of Camarillo in a competition.

By this point you may be thinking that I was crazy for taking on this challenge with such little training in, you know, running and biking. But my goals were concrete – finish the race, stay present and enjoy the time. But back to the biking…

Once you shoot out of Freedom Park there’s a fairly quick right onto Las Posas Road which takes you passed a railroad track. I tried to remain present as I passed the tracks where I had been crashed into while driving a car, 8 years ago. The turn onto Cawelti Road came up quickly enough then turned into a “challenging” ride into a strong headwind. I kept chugging along as fast as I could and about halfway through that stretch was passed by some of the Olympic race athletes and a couple of them gave me quick encouraging words, “You’re doing great!” one yelled as they zipped by. Another woman passed me and said, “This headwind is … special.” Special indeed.

After two miles of headwinds I turned onto Lewis Rd. and the sky opened up and now I was finally zooming down the road. This went on for a beautiful 3 miles until I made the turn back onto Las Posas Rd. The headwind was as bad as the one on Cawelti Rd and I was burning up my legs trying to cut through it all. One rider from the Olympic race yelled as he passed by “Go to a lower gear!” The same gentleman parked in front of me before the race so he felt confident enough to give me tip. The tip certainly helped and I was able to finish the bike portion with a flurry of speed.

Transition 2 & Final run
Once I hit the transition area I took a little longer this time to take a big drink of water and not have to carry a water bottle with me. When I picked up the race package on Saturday from Bill Escobar, I asked him what the number one mistake newbies made at the race. “They forget to take off their helmets before running” was his reply as he chuckled. I did remember to take off my helmet.

As I headed out of the transition area my legs were like Jell-O. In one of the blog posts I read as part of research, the writer said that a “gorilla jumped on his back” and slowed down his legs. That made me laugh out loud but it’s totally true. My strategy was to walk then run in bursts and hope to catch a few people along the way and for my Jell-O legs not to turn into complete jelly.

On the last half mile I passed a couple of more people who had passed me on the bike. I looked back to see if they were gaining on me on the final few yards but they were nowhere in sight. I cruised in for the finish and was very grateful for being able to compete in the event.

Here’s the view after uploading my Nike GPS Sportwatch info. I forgot to turn off the watch after the finish. I walked around for a bit before I realized that the watch was still going.

Results
Now, you can say that I came out second to last in the Men’s Sprint competition or you can say that I am on only one leg of a much larger race that started months ago when I chose to go on this fitness journey. Here are the statistical results.

Next Steps
My current steps have been very careful as my quads are still sore. My legs are no longer Jell-O but they are still somewhat gelatinous. I’m ready to start training on running and biking and to seek out the next event. I did see a triathlon in my hometown of Pasadena where the swim portion is a mere 150 meters in a pool. This is only 140 more meters than I can swim now so I am confident that I’ll be able to do the race in mid-march.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Camarillo Duathlon and the vast majority of folks were great and supportive. I wasn’t the only person who didn’t have a time traveler bike and my guess is that many others are also on a similar fitness journey. If you are also on this journey, I invite you to join me for the next multi-sport event and let’s get into shape together.

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Diabetes Controlled in 3 Months with Diet and Exercise

Since my last health/fitness related post I have continued to eat right and go to the gym and am down about 33 pounds since this journey started. During the 3-month follow-up session with my doctor, he said that my diabetes and cholesterol were controlled. My glucose average went from a 166 to 91 which is in the very normal range. Normal is great.

I thought I would share some of the specifics for releasing the weight and improving my diet to combat diabetes. Many of the ideas for the diet and health hacks came from Tim Ferriss’s book The 4-Hour Body and I’ve also been doing a lot of other research along the way.

“Theory of Change”
My Theory of Change has been that if I consistently eat more nutrient foods that have a low glycemic index and stay on my anti-diabetes medication that I will be able to manage my glucose levels and start to lose weight. The second part of the theory of change is that moderate cardio-based exercise will help drop the weight. Obesity is found to be a big contributor to the onset of diabetes. In order to properly evaluate this theory of change, I had to be very consistent and I tracked a lot of factors including daily glucose levels, how I felt during different parts of the day and I occasionally tracked calories.

Eating better also means pushing out foods that don’t serve my health goals. For me that means not eating mass quantities of cookies every day. It also means not living off of fast food burgers or ginormous pizzas. It does include increasing the amount of greens that I eat especially spinach.

A Typical Day
These are my food and exercise choices on a typical day:

Morning
* Eat two Brazil nuts within 30 minutes of waking up. If I check my blood and find that my glucose level is below 100 then I might also have a sip of a protein drink to get my blood sugar level up a bit. That keeps me from getting light-headed during morning exercise if I don’t have a full breakfast before the workout.
* Go on a brisk one-mile walk with my Labrador, Ivory. On my last walk we were out for over 18 minutes and my heart rate was at 101 beats per minute.
* A typical breakfast is three eggs (at least one egg will not include the yolk), maybe some more protein like chicken or turkey, black beans, spinach, and some salsa. I have one or two cups of coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Once or twice a week I’ll add almond milk to vary the taste. I used to love waking up and having several huge cups of coffee with flavored creamer but that has way too much sugar and the milk slows down weight loss.

Mid-morning
* I’ll take a small packet of raw unsalted almonds with me to work and I usually snack on them around 10-10:30 a.m.

Lunch
* I’ll head to a Chipotle restaurant and have a burrito bowl (burrito contents in a bowl, without a tortilla) with black beans, extra chicken or chicken plus steak, medium salsa, guacamole, and lettuce. The guacamole has some good fats in it and avocados are high in potassium. I don’t have any rice, sour cream or cheese. Cheese has also been found to slow down weight loss.

Mid-afternoon
* I’m usually ready for a snack around 3 p.m. If I have a night meeting at work I’ll have a protein bar which adds more calories than I want but it will keep me going through the meeting and allow me to graze on the nutrient parts of whatever we have for dinner. If I’ll be going home for dinner then the 3 p.m. snack will be more almonds, a Brazil nut or pumpkin seeds which are high in iron.

After work
* If I don’t have a night meeting I may go to the gym at this time and make sure to have had a snack beforehand like a protein bar and also a portion of a sports drink to get the sugar up some. It’s important to get your blood sugar at least to 100 before working out to avoid getting light-headed during or just after exercising.

Dinner
* A typical dinner will consist of chicken, black beans, plus either broccoli, spinach or a salad with a dollop of salsa. The salsa usually has enough flavor that I don’t need dressing for my salad but if we’re out of salsa and I want dressing then I’ll have a balsamic vinegar dressing.

Notes on portions.
I eat until I’m full. This keeps me from eating then wondering what else I should eat. If I do think of something else I will most assuredly think of something that is not on my diet like that awesome looking loaf of banana bread that is sitting on my kitchen counter.

Notes on time.
During the last month and a half my weight loss has plateaued. I was working on a very intensive campaign, was working late hours and have been down to one or two gym visits per week and one or two morning doggy walks per week. In addition, I’ve been having a few more morning lattes and that has been enough flatten out my weight loss. All of the meals that I cook are fast. For breakfast the eggs, turkey, beans and spinach meal is often a quick scramble and I can cook that in 4 minutes.

Cheat Day
I’ve mentioned eating more nutrient foods in this post but I’ve also mentioned cookies, pizza, and yummy banana bread. I do set aside one 24-hour period per week as a cheat day. This serves two purposes – it helps me deal with cravings by knowing that if I really think I want something I can have it on my cheat day and there is also evidence that a cheat day help with overall weight loss. That’s hard to believe but once the body starts eating nutrient whole foods and the weight loss takes off then the body naturally tries to avoid too much weight loss and certain systems start to work differently to actually increase fat and fluid storage. The cheat day helps convince the body that things aren’t going completely haywire and that there is some fat coming in. But be careful, it is possible to overdo a cheat day.

Next phase
As I mentioned, my weight loss is starting to plateau so I’ve decided to take the next step and create some new goals including training for a triathlon. If you would have mentioned a triathlon to me in January I would have laughed out loud but now I have some serious workout time under my belt and feel confident that I can meet the challenge after a couple of months of further training.

Posted in Food and Culture, Health | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Case Threatens Viability of an Open Internet


On September 9, 2013 the U.S. Federal Court of Appeals will start hearing oral arguments in Verizon V. FCC, a “net neutrality” case where wireless provider Verizon is challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) order regulating how Internet service providers manage their networks. Verizon seeks to undo some of the regulatory power of the FCC.

This case will have a major impact on how big companies like Verizon are able to slice away and filter parts of the Internet. If Verizon wins, this could mean that large companies can pick and choose which content they choose to stream. For example, Verizon and other massive companies could chose to filter content provided by competitors or views that don’t agree with their political positions. We’ve already seen a preview of this type of filtering with AT&T U-verse pay service’s refusal to broadcast Al Jazeera America. A Verizon win could make this type of refusal even more commonplace.

If the FCC wins then that will uphold the FCC’s 2010 rules on Internet usage, requiring companies to provide equal access to all lawful content.

The viability of an Open Internet depends on an FCC victory in this case.

The concept of Network (“Net”) Neutrality, often used interchangeably with Open Internet, can be a bit confusing, shrouded in telecommunications and legal jargon. With help from Todd O’Boyle, Common Cause’s Program Director for Media and Democracy, I reached out to former Federal Communications Commissioner Michael J. Copps for a Q & A session addressing the importance and necessity of having an Open Internet.

Q & A with the Honorable Michael J. Copps

Michael J. Copps served two terms as a Member of the Federal Communications Commission, from 2001 through 2011—the seventh longest-serving Commissioner in the history of the agency.

His years at the Commission were highlighted by his strong defense of “the public interest”; outreach to what he calls “non-traditional stakeholders” in the decisions of the FCC, particularly minorities, Native Americans, and the various disabilities communities; and actions to stem the tide of what he regards as excessive consolidation in the nation’s media and telecommunications industries.

1. For our readers who are new to understanding Net Neutrality, what does Net Neutrality mean?

I really dislike the term “network neutrality,” preferring instead “Internet Freedom” or the “Open Internet.” Anyhow, what it means is that providers should not be able to favor some Internet enterprises over others. Users have a right to access lawful content, run the applications of their choice, attach devices, enjoy the benefits of non-discrimination, and to expect transparency from providers.

2. What elements of the attack on an Open Internet should Latinos/Latinas be specifically concerned about?

We all need to be concerned about maintaining an Open Internet. Monopoly providers and special interest gatekeepers can deny us the dynamic opportunities opened up by broadband technologies. The Internet cannot reach its potential without guarantees of its ongoing openness. So much depends upon broadband and the Internet, from finding jobs and improving our schools to caring for our health and sharing our cultures with one another. For Latinos and other minorities that are working so hard to find opportunities for themselves and their families, an open Internet is not only desirable–it is a critical necessity.

3. Does chipping away at an Open Internet have a disproportionate impact on people of color?

While I think the lack of an open Internet is a threat to each and every one of us, I believe it is a special threat to those who have not enjoyed full access to the tools needed for creating opportunity, building careers, educating their kids, and access to the news and information needed for full participation in our system of self-government.

4. What effects, if any, would dismantling an Open Internet have on grassroots online activism? If any, can you give an example?

I believe that the Internet opens up tremendous avenues for citizen expression and participatory democracy. It could be a huge assist to taking government back from the special interests and putting the public interest first.

We have seen numerous incidents of grassroots pressure making a difference–one of those was surely the pull-back by Congress from considering SOPA and PIPA legislation not so long ago. More recently, popular outrage at the notorious Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, which unleashed even more special interest money into our electioneering, has stirred up widespread Internet grassroots activism. We need to keep that activism growing across a wide range of public policy issues so that our leaders and decision-makers begin to understand the impatience of the American people at the way issues are being mis-handled in Washington and in so many state capitals.

5. Is this a U.S. issue or a global one?

In the final analysis Internet Freedom is a global issue because the Internet is a global phenomenon. That being said, however, the first and biggest steps needed here can and should start in our country. What happens here in technology innovation affects the world. Similarly, the business models implemented here have global reverberations in determining how consumers everywhere will be treated. This is not an area we should wait for others to tackle. Let’s do it ourselves–now.

6. What can our readers do to have a voice and support an Open Internet?

I hope everyone reading this will talk the issue up–with their families, workplace colleagues, community, state and federal decision makers, the Federal Communications Commission, and both Congress and the President. Genuine reform in our country comes, historically, from the people up–not as a gift to the people from Washington, DC. Telecommunications is a huge part of our economy–probably one-sixth of it, maybe even more. It’s too important to ignore. I think the Open Internet, and the threats to it that we have already experienced, should be near the top of our list of national priorities. For me, it’s Number One because so much rides on it, from the health of our economy to the way we preserve and extend self-government. Everyone needs to be heard on this national challenge if we are to have any hope of communications that serve the true needs of the people–and by that I mean ALL our people.


Photo credit: thornet_ on Flickr. License.

Posted in Activism, Citizen Journalism, Communications, Corporations, Politics/Tech, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment