53% of the Way to My Livestrong Challenge Philadelphia 2009 Goal

livestrong-challenge1Way back in January I signed up for the Livestrong Challenge Philadelphia 2009 100 mile bike ride. My goal is to reach $1,000 in donations on my behalf before the ride, ideally exceeding it. Training has been going really well, pounding out miles with friends after work and on weekends and I’m happy to say that $533 has been raised so far, just over half of my intial goal.

With roughly six weeks left before the ride, I still want to meet the goal. I’m not at all nervous about spending 6+ hours in a saddle or the 4,300 or so verical feet of climbing. I am nervous about not meeting my goal, as cancer has affected so many people I care about and I will be letting myself down knowing there was more I could have done.

Roughly 300 of you subscribe to the RSS feed here at Randomn3ss, thank you. If each one of you donated only $5, that would put at more than double my initial goal of $1,000. Additionally, about 500 people a day visit the site, if each of you donated just $5, the goal would be crushed. Furthermore, 401 people follow me on twitter, 256 friends on Facebook and 1,883 friends on MySpace, if everyone donated just $5 the money raised would be astronomical.

Whether you know me personally or not, I’m sure you know someone that’s been affected by Cancer. I’m not asking for hand-outs on my behalf, I’m asking you to donate a tax deductible five bucks on behalf of cancer research to help fight and find a cure for the millions of people who have died, suffered and are suffering from Cancer, and their family and friends who suffer along side.

Make the donation using a credit card here: http://philly09.livestrong.org/mikepanic

I’ve been training for months to do this ride, all I’m asking for is your support, well wishes and as little as $5. I would also really appreciate it if you could forward this article along to friends and family, post it on your Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or whatever other social media sites you use, all the icons to do so are at the bottom.

Learn more about cancer here. Wikipedia on cancer. Wikipedia on Lance Armstrong. Official Livestrong site.

Attention all big city hikers!

I’ve been asked to put a piece together for BACKPACKER magazine about great hikes in city parks.  Ever been in a city for a long weekend or a business trip and wanted to get some hiking in?  Do you live in an urban area with a bangin’ city park?  Can you get lost in a forest as easily as you can get lost on your streets?  Then I want your help!!

Continue reading »

Running my first 5k race; 11 things I learned

Yesterday I competed in my first 5k race; it was the culmination of more than seven months of hard work and one more goal I’ve managed to meet along my list of happiness. Leading up to the race I managed to lose 75lbs, way more than I originally mapped out two years ago for the original list I wrote out, and now weigh in at a slim 165lbs, a weight I’m comfortable with being 5’10” tall. Seven and a half months of hard work, sacrifice and countless hours riding my bicycle on the road and gym led me to my target weight Saturday morning, Sunday was my day to prove what I’ve accomplished.

For some background, I’ve never been a runner, much less actually gone out for a run. Even in junior high I dreaded the day we had to do the one-mile run for the fitness test, I actually detest running. But, towards the end of January I started to get bored of riding the bike at the gym and the elliptical, so running was the next thing to do in an attempt to shed fat. I’m goal oriented, whether it’s to lose two pounds this week, ride 100 miles on the road or, in this case, run a 5k, they work for me. By the middle of February I was able to run 3.1 miles without taking a walking break on the treadmill in about 34 minutes. My newest goal would be a 5k in 30 minutes or less, something that any 29 year old should be able to do. Within a few weeks I met that goal on the treadmill, which felt good, but I was getting sick of being on the treadmill and wanted to start outside, since I knew it would be much different.

Luckily the weather started to break and spring came a little early and I’ve been able to get outside, so I figured why not enter a 5k race. It would give me official timing, a sense of taking part in group activity and an absolute goal date. The 1st Annual St. Patrick’s Day 5k on March 22nd would be my goal, complete it in less than 30 minutes and I’d feel accomplished. When I signed up several weeks ago, I did the math and figured I’d be really close, if not right on target to hit my goal date by Saturday the 21st, so it’d be a great weekend if I could meet two goals.

I’m happy to say, I did, and learned a lot about myself and running, here’s 11 tips & tricks learned during my first 5k:

Get fitted for real running shoes. When I first got the idea to run, I went to my local running store and got fitted. I’ve read horror stories of people blowing knees, rolling ankles and getting back pain from ill fitting shoes, I didn’t want to be one of those people, especially since I’ve already had spinal surgery. They watched me walked, looked at the bottom of my sneakers and had me try on nearly a dozen pair till we found the perfect fit. I also learned that while I’ve been wearing a size 10 since being thirteen years old, I need a size 11 running shoe.

Train outside. I didn’t have a choice, I wasn’t going to start a new hobby in the dead of a Pennsylvanian winter, but at the first chance to get outside, I did. Slight elevation changes, road surface irregularities, wind changes, they all have an effect on how you run, it’s also a lot less boring compared to a treadmill!

Wear clothing to the race that you’ve been training in. This was a critical mistake on my part, I’ve read the don’t make any changes on race day line from nearly everyone, and I did it anyway. I’ve been running outside with tech tees under cotton long sleeve shirts, but nothing I run in has pockets. I figured I’d wear one of my cycling shirts, which has a small zippered pocket in the back and made roughly of the same material as my tech tees under a long sleeve cotton shirt so I could stash my car key for the race. The key was safe, but the cycling shirt, which I bought last fall, is now two sizes too big, so it didn’t fit so well and cause chafing on my nipples. Now I know why marathon runners put band-aides on them.

Sleep well, eat well. Saturday night I was out late shooting an event till 2 in the morning. Even though I didn’t crawl into bed until nearly 3am, I didn’t have to wake up till 10am for the race, so I still got nearly 7 hours of sleep, which is what I average. Additionally, being out late and working actually put me to sleep faster when I got home and I slept better because of it. In the morning I had a half bowl of oatmeal along with some water, not too much food to make me sick to my stomach, just enough to keep me happy until after the race.

Drink twice the amount of water as you think you should. Packet pickup was at 11am, race started at 12:30, they suggested runners get there by 11am because parking would be a mess. I chugged some water before I left my house at 10:45 and figured I’d be fine, I wasn’t. Even though there was indoor packet pickup, water and bathrooms available I didn’t drink more water for fear of a side sticker. By the time it came to line-up, I was feeling dry mouthed and wishing I had sipped some more water.

The start of the race is not a sprint. Randomn3ss writer, competitive swimmer, triathlete and all around great person Lauren Libertine warned me that the start of the race could be nuts and I shouldn’t try to jockey for position, but to run my own race. I of coarse didn’t listen and got caught up with the front 40-50 runners going at a pace that left me burned out by the end of the first mile.

Don’t be ashamed to take a break. In less than 8 weeks I went from somewhat in fit cyclist to running a 5k race, from never running in my life. It’s a bit fast, but I did take two or three 10-15 second walking breaks yesterday.

Check behind you before blowing a snot rocket. While I’m proud to say I’ve mastered the art of blowing snot rockets, it’s common courtesy to look behind you prior to blowing one so someone isn’t covered in your gross-ness.

Run with someone. Another one of my mistakes. I told almost no one about doing this race, for no real reason. I wanted to do this for myself, to prove that I could do it, for me, no one else. It was selfish and I think if I could have convinced a friend to do it with me I’d not only had an even more enjoyable time and probably run a little faster. While I was running with 275 other people, it’s hard to set a constant pace without someone you know next to you.

When you see the finish line, kick! I am near-sighted, as in I wear glasses so I can see stuff far away, but I don’t run in them. When I rounded the final corner I could kind of see the finish, but the time clock was blurry. This is when I started to kick, not only to get a decent finish time, but so I could actually see how fast I was going. By the time I was close enough to see the clock, I was amazed how fast a pace I was at, especially considering the walking breaks.

Walk it out, refuel. After the run I had a block walk back to the area where the packet pickup was, the race officials and sponsors provided fruit, water, bagels and protein shakes free of charge, take advantage of this stuff! The walk got my heart rate down and the protein shake along with a banana helped ensure I didn’t get muscle cramps.

So how did I do? Of the 275 registered runners, 254 completed the 5k, I placed 183rd with a time of 28:28, well under my goal of 30 minutes and a new personal record. The sense of accomplishment, both in meeting my target body weight, how I feel and look, and completing the 5k race is beyond words for me. I’m already signed up to run another race in 2 weeks, another 2 weeks after that. Hopefully I can break into 27 minutes in one of those two races.

If you’re interested in seeing just how much training I’ve done leading up to the race, or how I continue to train, follow me at DailyMile here.

20% Towards the Livestrong Challenge goal!

Just over one month ago I signed up for the Livestrong Challenge 2009 to ride 100 miles on my bicycle to help fight and find a cure for cancer.  I’m happy to report that with the help of friends, family and strangers 20% of the $1,000 goal I’ve set has been reached!  With the event still six months away, the goal should well be exceeded.

Thank you to everyone who has donated and supported me for this great cause.  Please consider making a donation on my behalf at http://philly09.livestrong.org/mikepanic.

Livestrong Challenge Philadelphia 2009

With the bulk of my weight loss behind me and the success of the National MS Society City to Shore Ride I trained for, raised $825 for and completed last fall coupled with the happiness I feel inside due to meeting several more goals, I started to look for another charity ride to take part in this year.  After searching around I was beyond happy to find out that a Livestrong Challenge was taking place in Philadelphia on August 23, 2009.  This year, i will be more than doubling the miles in comparison to the MS ride, taking on the longest ride the Challenge has to offer, 100 miles.

The Livestrong Challenge is a series in several cities spearheaded by the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  This charity specifically appealed to me because I’ve seen too many of my close friends lose their parents to cancer, and while a few have survived, they all should have.  Beyond the physical pain they feel, it rips an emotional pain through their families and friends that lasts a lifetime.  A cure needs to be found.

My goal for this ride is to raise $1,000, I need your help to do this.  Please make a tax deductible donation on my behalf at: http://philly09.livestrong.org/mikepanic, even $5 will help, so skip Starbucks for a day and donate to an amazing charity and help me raise more than my goal.  If this money means it will help find a cure for cancer, I’ll ride 100 miles a day, every day.

This ride will be dedicated to:

  • The Kastelnik Family
  • The Pail Family
  • The Landis Family
  • The Cieri Family
  • The Torpe Family

And all those who have suffered from, lost, loved or known someone who has been diagnosed with cancer.

As with last years event, I will be making progress posts on how my training is going along, since the longest ride I’ve done to date is 55 miles, I’ve got a lot of work ahead.  I honestly hope to smash the $1,000 goal in donations too, so that information will be updated on a regular basis too.

Learn more about cancer here.  Wikipedia on cancer. Wikipedia on Lance Armstrong. Official Livestrong site.

To make a tax deductible donation on my behalf: http://philly09.livestrong.org/mikepanic

Please use the social bookmark / network / email options below to share this article on your Facebook / Myspace / Twitter / and email to friends and family.  The more people that are made aware, the better.

Happiness in 2008 roundup, 2009 goals

I hate New Year’s resolutions; I always thought they were stupid.  Anyway, it is the end of the year so I’m going to try to be positive and do a roundup of my nearly 2-year quest to scratch things off my list of happiness.   The most recent update can be found here, so I won’t bother covering items that are already done and focus only on what has been accomplished since October.

Short-term goals that have been met:

Eat at a nice restaurant at least once a month.  Done for December for sure, but I also consider the time spent on Sunday’s with my friends when we all cook and shoot the shit to be just as good as going out.

Make it to the gym at least twice a week.  This is very much done; I’ve been averaging better than 16 times per month.  With winter here my cycling outdoors is done and I’ve transitioned nicely to working out indoors.  It also helps that three of my friends, all whom I cycle with, joined the same gym as me.

Stop eating after 9pm.  I’m calling this one done as well, with one exception.  Sometimes I don’t get back from the gym till after 9pm and need to get some food in my system so I’ll eat a box of raisins, but overall I’ve stopped eating late at night.

Wake up 20 minutes earlier every day.  This is one I’m also calling done.  While it might not exactly be 20 minutes, I wake up with way more time to enjoy a short walk in the morning with Bella and not feel so rushed while going to work.

Short term goals that should be completed but aren’t:

Start taking my camera with me everywhere again.  I still don’t, but will really be working towards this; I forgot how much I truly enjoy shooting.

Continue to spin records.  This is being taken off the list, as I will be selling the turntables shortly.  I just don’t enjoy it as much as I used to and don’t devote time to them.  They’ve been sitting idle for far too long and will be up for grabs shortly.

Home remodeling.  Again finances prevented some of this, along with me waiting for 2009 to get a tax rebate for getting new windows.  Hopefully by summer I can afford the new windows, possibly a new sliding glass door too.

Two items left on my short-term goals list, originally 17.  I’d say that’s moving forward.

The second half of the article from October listed out some of my future goals, mostly cycling related.  I still want to compete in a sprint triathlon however the one I was looking at towards the end of May 2009 won’t happen this year.  I simply don’t have the time to train for it properly, as I’m just now starting to get into running and feel I have at least 2, if not 3 months of work ahead to run a 5k in 30 minutes or less.

Looking forward to 2009, I am in talks with friends about doing at least two charity rides, the first would be an MS ride similar to the one I did in September but in central Pennsylvania, and a double century.  That is to say, ride 100 miles the first day, sleep and ride 100 miles back the second day.  The second one would be a Livestrong cancer ride in Philadelphia in August, 100 miles in one day.  I’ve lost more than 50 pounds since I started cycling at the end of July 2008, and I’m only about 7 pounds away from my target goal weight of 180.  Over the next 3-6 months I plan on actually thinning out a little more than that but more importantly, focus attention on reducing my total body fat percentage and increasing my core strength and overall fitness level.

I still need to bite my tongue a lot more, think about what comes out of my mouth before it leaves my lips, not after.

Read more, while audio books are nice, I’m starting to find reading fun again, or for the first time, considering I’ve never been much of a reader.

Enjoy life.

Many people have helped me reach these goals; most have had no clue that they even had any part in helping me.  To anyone who knows me, Thank You.  Thank you for putting up with me, encouraging me, talking to me, listening to me, pushing me, hating me, loving me, holding me accountable, depending on me, and overall, being there.

Share your miles and workouts with DailyMile

Nearly two years ago I published my list of happiness as sort of a roadmap to make changes, evolve and grow as a person and to become a better man. My list of happiness also got a little happier back in October by meeting some of the goals, one of which was to lose weight. There is a small secret to how I’ve help to stay motivated to lose the weight though, DailyMile.com, a social networking site for athletes.

A friend on a photography forum suggested it to me after I posted up a few photos of my road bike and sent me an invite, they were in private beta but I quickly got accepted. While still a bit new, the site has done nearly everything that a stat geek could want and more. The site is meant to help runners, cyclists, swimmers and athletes track the miles they’ve covered, compare the data in graphs and build friendships to encourage and train with others, even if they are in another state or another country. Additionally a forum can be found to get questions answered like, How do I start running, What’s your food weakness or What songs rock your workout? The site’s Web 2.0 uber clean interface makes using it a real joy and it has Twitter integration built in with other social networking tools coming soon.

If you are a racer, or want to be, a user entered database of upcoming races lets you find ones near you to participate in and show a count-down of how long you have until the big day.

There’s even widgets you can install on your blog to show your progress and upcoming races, really cool stuff.

Since signing up just over three months ago I’ve logged nearly 2,000 miles, met some great people and been motivated to ride a few extra miles to catch up to some of my new friends or pull further away from others. I’ve also become more interested in running and have a goal of completing a 5k this spring in fewer than 30 minutes. Those 2,000 miles, a proper diet and motivation from my friends, both in real life and on DailyMile have helped me loose nearly 20% of my body weight. As long as I don’t eat too many holiday cookies today I should weigh in tomorrow morning 50 pounds lighter than I was just four short months ago!

Thank you DailyMile (Kelly & Ben!) for creating such an amazing site and everyone I’ve met through it. You’ve successfully combined my addiction for stats & numbers with Web 2.0 social networking while actually encouraging me to get away from the computer and go do something productive.

DailyMile is out of private beta and open for the public, go sign up! Follow me on DailyMile here: http://www.dailymile.com/people/mikepanic.

Coping with and beating Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter depression)

Fall has nearly gone and winter is here in eastern Pennsylvania. That means that the sun rise is usually barely seen due to the grey color over the sky, the leaves have all fallen and the sun sets around 4.30 every afternoon. It’s also cold, wet and windy. All the right symptoms to give just about anyone Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition

in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter

Photo by: Hendricks Photos

I’ve never really been affected by it, this year it seems to hitting me though. My thoughts as to why it’s starting is partly due to commuting via bicycle for the last half of summer and first portion of fall. I was outside daily, enjoying it, the sun and everything that comes along with it, except the rude drivers on the rode. Now I drive to work when the sun is low in the sky, only peaking through clouds after showing itself for maybe an hour or so, work in a windowless office and then drive home in the dark. I won’t make attempt at being a new-age hippie in looking for solutions, but I did poke around and find some pretty creative answers and some that I don’t really agree with on how to tackle this problem. I’ve grabbed the best from what I could find and compiled them here, hoping to not only prevent myself from sinking in a hole but also hoping they will help others out as well.

The Daily Mind has most of your obvious suggestions, the main one is to get outside more. This time of year it’s just too cold for me to be outside for any period of time, the older I get the less fond I am of winter.

Photo by: jenny downing

Super-Ways offers some zen lifestyle changes with the emphasis on yoga, I can’t say that any seem to apply directly to SAD, but they do suggest giving yourself time off, which is a great idea. Sometimes putting off a load of laundry or a sink full of dishes for an hour or three to roach on the couch is needed. Just don’t make it an all day affair, all the time.

Photo by: nattu

Get Fit Slowly has probably the best list of the sites I found, giving out 10 great suggestions. Number 3 on J.D.’s list is to try light therapy, which is a full spectrum light used to replicate the color and tone emitted by sunlight. For $260, this light better do more than just cure my winter time blues, but J.D. said it did help. If you’re on a budget (like me) I see nothing wrong with swapping out standard light bulbs for GE Reveal‘s which are full spectrum and only a few bucks.

Photo by: micsalac

These three sites along with nearly every other I could find almost all contained the same mantra though; eat healthy, exercise, get lots of rest. Personally, I’ve changed my diet months ago to loose weight, so much so that it’s just how I live now and not really a change. I do find comfort in fresh fruit, as suggested on one of the above sites, even though it is at a serious premium right now. Additionally, I’m doing my best to avoid winter style comfort foods which tend to be high in fat and carbohydrates.

One thing I’m considering doing is bring smoothies back into my diet, since I really enjoyed them in the summer and I generally associate them with the warmer weather. Also in consideration is bringing out my grill, I don’t care what electric device you have in your kitchen, BBQ chicken doesn’t taste the same unless it’s cooked outside on a grill, gas or coal.

Since I’m no longer riding my bicycle outside due to the cold, crappy weather, I’m at the gym 4-5 days a week and also picked up bicycle trainer at the local swap meet this fall, allowing me to ride my road bicycle indoors. Look them up on YouTube, you’ll laugh your ass off watching people eat shit on them. The downside to both is that they are again, done inside, and I can’t wake myself up early enough to go before work so I’m stuck driving to the gym in the dark. For me, I’ve almost always used the winter as an excuse to eat what I want and hide it under a sweatshirt, this year will be different. I’m using this winter to train for the spring and the beach, this is my motivation.

Lastly, sleep is mentioned in nearly all the articles. This is a non-issue for me. Since starting a training / dieting / lifestyle change 4 months ago, I sleep better than I have in 10+ years. Proper diet + exercise, for me, equals a great night of rest.

The only thing I didn’t see mentioned in the nearly dozen sites I was trolling was to go on a vacation. I haven’t myself, but I’m thinking that a change of scenery would do a world of good this time of year, even if only a 3-day long weekend that is in driving range.

Are you affected by SAD? If so, how do you cope with and beat it?

Ask the readers – What podcasts do you subscribe to?

With fall here and winter right around the corner coupled with the early sunsets, my ability to exercise outside has nearly come to a halt.   I’m now in the gym 3+ nights a week on the dreaded stationary bike which is no where near a close second, or even third or fourth to my road bicycle, but I need to keep active.  I’ve kept myself busy with my video iPod and utilizing TvRSS to get caught up on shows and watch them when I want to, but I’m almost out of TV shows and movies now.   Last night I sat down in front of my computer, opened up iTunes and went through their video podcasts, there really didn’t seem to be anything interest to me and the overall selection was slim at best.  Even the audio podcasts don’t seem that interesting anymore and the list is much shorter than I recall.

One audio podcast I downloaded called Tri Talk had potential, since I am still throwing around the idea of doing a triathlon so I downloaded the newest podcast and started to listen last night at the gym.  It was the author saying, in a nutshell, that it was his last podcast and it was a good run but he’s not into doing it anymore.  Great, the one podcast I find is totally useless to me.  The other thing I noticed was most video podcasts aren’t much longer than 3-4 minutes, with the exception of diggnation.  Diggnation tends to be funny, but sometimes I need more to look at and listen to than two guys on a couch talking about websites I can’t easily visit since I’m not in front of a computer.

So, I’d like to ask, what podcasts (audio and / or video) do you subscribe to and why do you like them?  I’m into a vast amount of topics, from gadgets / electronics, photography, current local / world news, cycling, pure entertainment, etc.  Video podcasts are preferred since I’m stuck on the stupid stationary bike for 45-60 minutes at a time but audio ones work great for when I’m on the treadmill and can’t focus on watching the video screen of my iPod.

Photo by: Alexandre Van de Sande

Breast Cancer Prevention – The Quick Overview

I’ll save you some time during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month: In reading several blogs regarding breast cancer and its prevention, and in reading several nutrition books lately, it boils down to eating less animal foods, eating more vegetables and fruits, and exercising frequently.

– Research shows there is almost no breast cancer in populations that consume less than 10% of their calories from fat, and that meat and dairy continue to be strongly implicated as a causal factor in breast cancer; it’s not just animal fat, it’s animal protein, too. Eating lots and lots of vegetables, especially green vegetables, and fruit, preferably raw, offers the most protection, even if you do eat animal foods. (You don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan to prevent cancer, although this is best – just add a lot more plant foods – a whole lot more than the standard American diet, that is.)

– In one study, women 20-54 who exercised regularly had over 60% less risk than sedentary women to get breast cancer, and for those who exercised more than 4 hours per week, their risk was over 70% less. (There are countless studies that support the assertion that regular exercise is crucial to health and disease prevention.) Walking at a good clip (lazy strolls don’t count really) at least 4-5 days a week for 30 minutes or more is the starting point, for example. It’s best to vary your workouts with different types of exercise, including cardio, strength training and stretching, to get the best benefits.

One last note: Don’t confuse mammograms with prevention: Mammograms are for detection; they are important but they can’t prevent cancer. Only reducing your risks (i.e. if you smoke, quit now and permanently), eating raw vegetables (leafy greens give the most protection; skip the starchy ones) and fruits (but eat more veggies than fruits to get the most superior nutrition), and regular exercise will truly lower your chances of getting breast or other types of cancer, as well as other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.