Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How I Lost 16.5 Pounds

On the morning of February 7, 2010 I awoke and weighed myself on the bathroom scale - as I do every morning - and was horrified by the readout: I was a 196.5 pound gelatinous blob of wriggling pudgy-fudge. Needless to say, I was repulsed. And let me tell you, to be disgusted by one's own self is not a very pleasant feeling.

A few hours later, I was lined up for a race in Central Park when I ran into an old buddy of mine, who as part of his greeting, patted my tummy and said, "What's this?"

I was mortified and embarrassed, and as I dragged my spare tire through the first mile I decided then and there to get a hold of this before I spiral out of control and end up leaden enough to qualify for the WBO heavyweight division.

On the morning of October 20, 2010 I awoke and weighed myself on the bathroom scale and tipped it at 180, reaching my goal weight, four pounds less then wedding weight, and the lowest of my adult life.

I did it by following a six-step program:

1) I undertook various six-week fitness challenges. First I undertook a program to be able to muster 100 consecutive pushups ( and aced it. Then I tried a program to crank out 20 straight pullups ( and crushed it. Currently I'm partaking in a program that should allow me to conquer 200 straight situps ( All this meant I'd be sweating at least three times a week, burning massive amounts of calories.

2) My family has pizza about 100 times a year(!). Pizza is typically 300 calories per slice. I used to eat two slices, plus all the leftover crust from my family. I realized that in reality, I was eating three total slices! So I chopped out a slice and it's more than enough to satisfy me. Doing the math, that's 30,000 annual calories I haven't consumed!!!

3) I've stopped stuffing my face to my heart's content after a run and after hockey. This is major. I used to jam grub down me gulliver, thinking I could afford to because I'd sweated so hard and I deserved it. Not so fast. I began calculating how many calories my activities burned and consumed way, way less than that amount. Instant results.

4) I get home daily about 1-1.5 hours before my wife. I used to snack in the interim so that they could tide me over until she makes her yummy dinners. No more. Now I play with the kids, put them to sleep solo most of the time and eat hardily once my wife is home. Those snacks were useless calories.

5) Are you like me? Do you panic when you're offered birthday cake and think to yourself, "Ohmigosh, I have to have this! I mean, when's my next chance? But the flower-shaped icing has 437 synthetic ingredients! But it looks so good! I need to have it!" No more. Especially when my kids get invited to birthdays all the time, and birthday cake is in ample supply. I can have it when I want it, but I don't. I ask for one bite from my kids' offerings and it's enough to satisfy me.

6) Because of my weight loss, I've been able to put in longer and more vigorous runs, which is an excellent calorie-burning loop. I've trained more miles this year than ever before. I've broken various PRs. I'm getting fast and faster and my workouts have become more intense, and I am no longer a gelatinous blob of wriggling pudgy-fudge. Nay, I might currently be in the best shape of my life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Finished Another Book!

The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean - Did you enjoy the periodic table of the elements as much as I did when you were a child? Of course you didn't! Therefore, despite the absolute wonderfulness of this book, and its fascinating tidbits and stories and mind-blowing facts, I'm recommending it only for people who are actually interested in this corner of the physics world. If you are, this book will be very, very enjoyable and rewarding. The writer's passion for the material is absolutely transparent and he imbues the pages with total appreciative awe.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The First Ever Jrunners Half-Marathon Minyan/S.I. Half Marathon/Post-race Continental Breakfast

It was the largest gathering of Jrunners since the Jrunners Apprecation Event, which took place one week after the inaugural Jrunners Relay Race. Twenty-one strong (including our first honorary Jrunnerette!) turned out for the Staten Island Half Marathon. Some showed as a final long race before the NYC Marathon, some to break a PR, some because running is a constant in their lives, and some for the camaraderie of it all.

It began with what is believed to the be the first ever recorded Half-marathon Minyan anywhere on earth. With the rising sun, mizrach was rather easy to find! Fourteen Jrunners joined in and the davening became quite a curiosity for onlookers (overheard: a person waiting for a friend to meet them said into her phone, "I'm right next to the service at the bottom of the stairs"). We had enough pictures snapped to drown Facebook accounts across America. Fortunately, only us Jrunners could provide proper tagging.

The Jrunners caravan then hung around in the parking lot, giving each other how-do-you-dos, advising each other on hill management, snapping pictures for posterity, poking fun at some of our clothing choices and generally enjoying each other's company.

Then it was showtime, with brisk weather surrounding us, and great energy coursing throughout the Jrunners contingent, we were off, we survived and we returned to where we started in the following order:

Katz Matt M32 1:34:01 07:11
Holmbraker Steve M51 1:37:24 07:27
Pancer Joseph M40 1:37:49 07:28
Ovits Mordechai M33 1:39:35 07:37
Friedman Israel M41 1:39:42 07:37
Mittel Yitzchok M33 1:42:22 07:49
Maltz Martin M36 1:43:01 07:52
Kohane Ariel M39 1:43:02 07:52
Schachner Dovid M46 1:43:28 07:54
Piekarski Abe M38 1:44:14 07:58
Bodek Martin M35 1:47:20 08:12
Weisz Shmuel M29 1:47:27 08:13
Sommer Pesach M39 1:50:44 08:28
Pupko Yisroel M27 1:55:21 08:49
Pupko Adina F35 1:55:30 08:49
Silk Mitchell M48 1:58:08 09:02
Singer Simon M32 2:01:38 09:18
Rosenblum Saul M35 2:01:43 09:18
Shmueli Menachem M31 2:10:50 10:00
Rand Charles M33 2:15:00 10:19
Dornhelm Alex M32 2:18:07 10:33

As you can see, Mutty, Steve, Yossi and Yisroel won their respective age groups. Chesky, Maltz and Alex set their PRs.

Following the race, we got together for some official and unofficial photos and headed to Chesky's car for a continental breakfast sponsored by fellow Jrunner Mordechai Ovits. We chowed down, wished each other well, gave one another metaphorical pats on the back for a job well done and hoped that we could find an occasion to do this again. A great time was had by all.

And now, for the awards ceremony:

The Paula Radcliffe Fait Accompli Award: Mutty Katz. We though he would win, guessed he would win, discussed that he'd win, expected him to win, and he won. I mean, the dude was dressed for the part, with Cathlolic schoolgirl socks and shorts so short they .

The Satchell Paige Let Me Show You Punks How this is Done Award: Steve Holmbraker. Now about 98 years into his running career, and running what was probably his 875th half-marathon, he completely schooled anyone not named Matt Katz. Actually, taking age grading into consideration, Steve finished in 1:25:25. So all things considered, he absolutely smoked the rest of us.

The Michael Jordan We Should All Have Colds Like this Award: Mordechai Ovits. Mordechai complained all week about an annoying cold about which he worried would wreck his performance. Ahahahaha! Wreck, right. He broke his own Half-marathon PR by 15 minutes! Halevai we should all get sick like this.

The Milorad Cavic Missed it by THIS Much Award: Mordechi Bodek. Mordechi missed his 9-year-old half-marathon PR by 34 seconds, but when interviewed about his performance (by himself, naturally), he stated that he was thrilled with his performance, as he gave it everything he had and getting that close was extremely rewarding.

The Willis Reed Limp Shmimp Award: Pesach Sommer: Pesach is only a month removed from knee surgery, but did that stop him from training hard and running sub 8:30s for a half-marathon? Nope.

The Kathrine Switzer First Lady Award: Adina Pupko. 1) self-explanatory. 2) Welcome!

The Staples Superstore Easy Button Award: Chesky Rand. Chesky has an excruciating list of booboos and hills make him nauseous, but he focused so hard, he didn't notice THE HILL and powered right over it. He flagged a bit in the final miles, but sucked it all up and finished strong, just in time to open the car wherein our continental breakfast was.

And there you have it, folks! Congratulations to all of us for a great showing and a great show!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Near Half-Marathon PR

The S.I. Half Marathon, where I was joined by 19 other fellow Jrunners, davened shachris together before the race, had a continental breakfast after, and in between, I narrowly missed breaking my half-marathon PR by 34 seconds, but I could not push it any further. I gave it all the energy I had. It was my 15th half.

And I know where those 34 seconds went. I needed to do exactly 8 minute miles from wire to wire to break my PR. For the first seven miles, my times were all between 7:36 and 8:01, but then came THE HILL, and the mile portion of that stretch took me 8:45, then I needed to spend some time at the next water stop to recover. By the time I got my senses back, I had lost too much time for continued 8s to get me my PR. That hill wrecked me. But I have no complaints, none. My PR is 9 years old and to come within a whisper of my PR is extremely satisfactory.

Now the general convention holds that to determine your marathon time, take your last 1/2 marathon distance, multiply by two, add ten minutes, and badabing! By that rationale, I should obliterate my PR (4:24) and finally eclipse the goal I set for myself when I ran my first marathon sometime in the last millenium: 4:20. But I should do soooooo much better than that! I will.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Finished Another Book!

Why Faith Matters, by David J. Wolpe - I read this book with what I consider its inverse companion: Christopher Hitchens' "God is not Great." I must say, it wasn't a fair fight. Hitchens, as he did in a real-life debate, absolutely smashes Wolpe's mousy little arguments to fine dust.

The writing itself is horribly, terribly amateur. If this was intentional, it was deplorable. MAKE me spring for a dictionary as a result of you selecting a perfect wording or phrasing to sell a point.

Speaking of points, no new ground is covered her, and no insights save for one or two mildly interesting arguments.

Wolpe is simply not the choice to successfully defend the religion I practice. A better champion needs to be made available.

The bottom line is, and no better classic argument is available, that for those who wish to believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't, none will suffice.

Finished Another Book!

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens - Of all the books availalbe to read on this planet, this one probably would raise the eyebrows highest for the people who know me - if not for the content, then at least for the title.

However, I had to read this book for two reasons:

1) I have to read everything. The deal I made with myself is that if there is a controversial book whose content might effect my philosophical underpinnings adversely, I must also read the best available converse book for balance. I therefore read David Wolpe's "Why Faith Matters" at the same pace and actually finished both books on the same day.

2) I love Hitchens' writing in general. There is simply no one on earth with a better command of the English language than he. And if you can find me one who does (and I challenge you to do so), then at the very least, there is simply no one on earth who combines amazing literary intelligence with masterful insolent wit.

I absorbed all the information and enjoyed running to a dictionary every few seconds (his word choice is so expert, he should give lessons to those who try big words and contextually fail with them). I disagreed vehemently with two points and agreed vehemently with another.

Disagreement # 1: I was quite surprised at his lack of proper research into the finer details of Orthodox Judaism. If you're going to rail against it, know it. He himself says in the closing sentence that to fight one's enemy, you must first understand it. Ergo, he cannot fight Judaism without a better understanding of it.

Disagreement # 2: He addressed the classic argument that atheists are too responsible for scads of historical mass murder. His response is that the regimes responsible were religious in their construction. This argument is invalid, especially in the face of a much simpler argument he can easily counter with: would you assume that if these atheist murderers introduced G-d into the equation of their lives, they would have ceased their activity or increased it?

Agreement: He says with clarity that one needs not to be a moral person to achieve a great moral accomplishment. Often religions cry against this, citing purity of heart as responsible for purity of achievement. Both Hitchens and I believe this to be nonsense. Great, great, moral advances and lofty accomplishments have been achieved by people who hey, like to sleep with scores of women. So what?

Now if you'd like to rebuke me for reading this book, shove it up your poopchute. If you'd like to discuss it with me as a gentleman, please feel free to e-mail me. Let's talk.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

I Sold a Kindle Copy of My Book!

How cool is that!?: