2015 was an odd year and my outdoor training took a huge hit.
We made a local move to a new home in the Spring of 2015 and between getting the old house ready for market and settling into the new home and all that goes with it, my free time for kayaking and cycling was limited.
The upside in terms of fitness, however, was that we moved from the country into a neighborhood with a fully equipped fitness center so I started spending a lot of evening hours in the gym. If I couldn’t be outdoors training during the day then I’d at least be training hard in the gym in the evenings to build some muscle and drop some fat to enhance my skills on the water.
On the first Saturday in May I took time out from unpacking boxes and maintaining two properties to race once again in the Nelson Downriver Race on the Tye River. I wanted to race this race in my Phoenix again to make it past Rockpile rapids without incident.
Making it through Rockpile Rapids with ease, although a tree branch stole my favorite paddling hat
I did not get a great start as another paddler went perpendicular in the first rapid and I wound up tangled with his boat for a while, but I soon recovered and had a fairly good run downriver in my Phoenix Match II kayak. I thought I would place well because I passed a lot of people on the river during the race and when I came across the finish line I did not see anyone in front of me.
As it turned out, two paddlers finished well ahead of me and one more started behind me in a different heat but would end up posting a time more than a minute faster than me so I took forth place overall. It was a finish that was not at all unsurprising since I had only been on the water two times that year prior to the race and wasn’t in any sort of condition.
Crossing the finish line at the 2015 Nelson Downriver Race in my Phoenix Match II kayak
As has become tradition, the very next Saturday I was back at my local race, the Rivanna River Regatta Canoes & Kayak Races.
I was unsure of the water levels that day so I loaded up two boats on my vehicle the night before and would decide at race time which was the better choice. That is to say, I knew what the river gauges were telling me the day before but I held out hope for some rain overnight.
The rain did not come.
I checked out the finish line first thing and saw that the water was low and I also heard reports that there was a fallen Sycamore tree across the river that left only a narrow passage, river-left that most likely would require a portage during the race.
So I decided one again on the Phoenix Match II because it was shorter and lighter than the other boat on top of my vehicle and it would skim off rocks more easily in low water.
The starting horn blew and I got off to…the absolute worst start ever.
I still don’t know what exactly happened to me at the starting line that morning, but somehow I started river-left and my boat started drifting into the center of the river within the first few paddle strokes. Rather than kill my speed and make the proper correction early, I decided to try to power through a gradual correction and that, combined with the waves from others’ boats, only made matters worse and pushed me more to the right, right across the river in front of almost all the other racers.
My embarrassing start at the 2015 Rivanna River Race
I was very embarrassed and felt I had already blown the race but I kept my eye on the leader and decided to sprint to try to catch up to him. He was paddling a Perception Wavehopper kayak and I knew he would be tough to catch.
I spent a lot of energy catching up to him but I did, and then passed him. I did not know if I had enough energy and endurance left to hold him off for the rest of the race but I was able to and never lost the lead after I got in front.
It was close, though.
I would put some distance between us in the flat water and he would narrow the gap through the rapids. This cycle repeated several times.
We both made it through the narrow, shallow section around the fallen Sycamore tree without getting out of our boats, though.
I came across the finish line in first place and found myself in a position I did not expect to be in. A three-peat winner of the local race.
Chillaxing after the 2015 Rivanna River Race
I competed in one more race that year, and that was the 40-mile James River Rundown that I described when I started this blog back in November.
And that, my friends, is where I started revealing this journey to you.
I created this blog to tell you my story and to document my journey not only for my children to read at some point but for others who might just be getting into fitness mid-life.
From this point forward I’ll be essentially “live blogging,” but will also fill you in on more of my diet and exercise routine along the way.
Before I started taking things seriously a few years ago I weighed ~180 pounds and was ~20% body fat. At my lightest weight immediately after the 2014 Storming of Thunder Ridge 100-mile bike ride I weighed in at 159 pounds and was ~13% body fat. That was way too light and unhealthy for me considering I got there in ~16 months.
I’ve under-eaten to the point where my metabolism and hormones crashed, I’ve suffered brain fog, tendonitis, twitching eye lids, sleeplessness, night sweats, and irritability under the guise of losing fat and getting healthy and there is one thing for sure I can tell you.
Eating at a significant caloric deficit for any length of time is not healthy and is not sustainable.
After figuring out how to eat and train to add muscle and lose fat, I’m now at ~176 pounds at ~16% body fat. I’m just about where I want to be, but am currently in a cutting phase for Spring. I think I’m safe to lose 3-4 pounds.
I’ve been eating at a slight caloric surplus for months (by design) and I know I’ve added muscle mass by lifting heavy and then high volume in the gym over the winter months and am looking forward to shedding a few pounds to strip off a bit of the fat to see what is left underneath.
It is time to maintain my muscle for kayaking season but to also lighten up to float higher on the water.
I’ve tried just about everything when it comes to weight lifting, training, dieting, and supplements and would like to share one pearl of wisdom with you at this point if you are trying to lose weight and get in shape.
Figure out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and do not go over or under that caloric intake by a drastic amount whether you are trying to add muscle or lose weight.
Do not do a drastic bulking phase and do not do a drastic cut/crash-diet phase.
Proper diet (i.e. What you eat) and patience are 95% of the game. Aside from that, be active, keep moving, and lift heavy things regularly to maintain or add muscle mass at any age.
It can be done.
No sugar, no grains, lift heavy things, don’t eat significantly over or under maintenance calories, and keep moving! Use it or lose it.