Ironman Louisville 2015: After Action Report

Going into IMLOU2015, I felt cautiously optimistic.

On the positive side:

(1) In spite of having so many difficulties learning to swim, that came together in mid-August. Prior to that, I had a strong chance of failing to make it out of the water.

But two weeks before IMLOU, I nailed a 2.4-mile open-water swim. In the weeks prior to that, I nailed several open-water swims in the Ohio River.

I felt ready for the swim at IMLOU. The only wildcard: water temperature. All of my practice swims had been in warmer water (76F and higher). At start time, the water temp was 68F.

(2) I had five rides of at least 100 miles, the last of which was 4 weeks before IMLOU.

(3) I had four training runs of at least 20 miles, the last of which was three weeks before IMLOU.

(4) I was well-tapered (3 weeks).

On the negative side:

(1) I had suffered two bike crashes during critical brick workouts. Both of those came 6 and 5 weeks, respectively, before IMLOU.

(2) In spite of my century rides, I still hadn’t logged a lot of miles on the bike. This was due to spending so much time on the swim out of necessity. (After all, I can be a 20mph biker and a sub-4 marathoner, but that means nothing if I can’t make it out of the water.)

Basically, I was forced to gamble on the premise that my century riding experience–10 in the last 2 years–would be enough to give me the legs going into the run portion of an Ironman triathlon.

(3) I had stomach problems that morning, probably due to a meal I had the day before.


The swim:

When I cannonballed into the water, I had an initial shock: I could not breathe because the water felt so cold. Thankfully, I recovered quickly. Within ten yards I was in business.

My hard work on the swim paid off well. I focused on my race, staying very steady. I had no breathing problems. No panic issues. No fatigue. I felt very good going upstream in the Towhead Island channel. I had to stop to pee twice, but other than that, no issues whatsoever.

When I reached the turn buoy at 0.8 miles, I was elated. I was going to nail the swim. This was going to be a good day.

The rest of the swim was very nice going downstream. I finished comfortably and was all smiles coming into the swim finish.

In transition (T1), I fumbled a little bit trying to get my GPS tracker on, and had to make a pit stop due to my stomach issues, but I made it onto the bike by 10AM, which was my target.

Mission #1 accomplished.

The Bike

Because of my bike crashes, I decided to take it easy for the first 27 miles which included (a) some very nasty pavement on River Road and (b) a dangerous out-and-back on highway 1694. My mission: don’t crash!

River Road was horrible. Pavement was awful, but I avoided crashing. It is flat, but the horrible road quality made it difficult to ride.

The 1694 stretch was much better, given that it had recently been re-paved. But it was still dangerous, as it is narrow and you have bike traffic going both ways, often at high speeds. Tragically, there were several crashes, and I saw the aftermath of one: a woman was lying motionless in the road, her bike scattered on the other side of the road. (I learned she had broken her jaw and collarbone, and needed lots of stitches. Another cyclist had pulled right into her path.)

I took it very easy on 1694. I rode the brakes on the downhills, stayed aero on the flats, stayed away from other riders–we weren’t supposed to draft, but a lot of riders broker that rule, which is what caused many of the accidents–and tried to take it easy on the uphills. Sometimes, I went a little hard on the uphills, and I would pay for that later.

The next big stretch is a two-loop trip around La Grange. There are lots of hills in this section, particularly on 393 and Ballard School Road (also affectionately known as Bastard School Road). That loop was difficult, but I handled it well. My only problem: had to take a couple pit stops due to stomach issues.

The second La Grange loop seemed uneventful–I made the 3PM cutoff for the second loop with almost a half hour to spare–and I was feeling well except for the stomach problems.

When I made the final turn onto US-42 for the 30 mile trip to the bike finish, I felt great. Yes, there were hills, but it was mostly flat. The only problems: the headwinds–13 mph–and my stomach problems. But those seemed like low-grade nuisances. While my finishing time for the bike was a little higher than I wanted, my swim-bike split was close to my target.

The Run

Coming out of T2, I had 5:45 to do the marathon. This was well within my training limits.

Only one problem: my quads were hurting. This has not happened to me all year after a century ride. The swim would not have affected my legs much, because (a) I rely on my wetsuit to keep my lower body up, and (b) my swimming motion is core-driven, not leg or arm-driven.

The bike had trashed my quads!

This probably wasn’t helped by my nutrition deficit, due to my stomach problems.

Still, I started the marathon on a positive note. The course was flat; I was otherwise comfortable; my quad pain dissipated somewhat; I was getting food down; I had a fighting chance.

For the first 5 miles, I felt good.

Then things started slipping ever so slightly. I could feel my quads stiffening, and my splits started to slow. I responded by taking bananas and a small amount of chicken broth. Got some carbs down, but tried not to overeat. I also adjusted my stride to gain more comfort. This was working for the most part.

Then, at mile 12, the bottom fell out. I hit the wall very badly. My quads were all but dead.

While I made the 13.1 mile cutoff, I knew I was in trouble. There was an 11PM cutoff at the turnaround point (approximately mile 20), and, of course, the midnight cutoff at the finish line.

I needed a miracle to recover.

I went to my special needs bag. I had a banana and a peanut butter and honey bagel. I couldn’t keep the bagel down, so I went for the banana.

I kept walking, and taking in fluids and electrolytes and carbs. I figured I might just get the jump-start I needed to run.

That never arrived.

I had just finished mile 17 when the clock ran out on the 11PM cutoff.

I was pulled from the race.


On the positive side:

(a) I had the swim of my life;

(b) I had a strong bike performance that set me up for the run I wanted;

(c) I did not quit.

While my stomach issues were a nuisance, I don’t think that had anything to do with the result. These things happen in ultra-endurance events. Chef Gordon Ramsay, an Ironman veteran who has finished Kona before, was DNFd on Saturday at Kona after vomiting throughout the run course.

Ultimately, I think this comes down to my bike crashes that ended my key brick workouts. I needed at least one of those. I got neither.

At the end of the day, I got killed on the margins.

I plan on attempting another Iron-distance race, but not next year. I don’t want to put MrsLarijani through the training chaos two years in a row.

Next time, my quads will be ready. Now that I have the swim down, I can spend a LOT more time on the bike. Can someone say HILL REPEATS???

I’m looking at either (a) Beach to Battleship, (b) Ironman Chattanooga, or (c) Ironman Louisville in 2017.

I’ll be ready for the rematch.

Brutal Century Ride: Hub City Tour 2015 (One More Brick To Go)

In my quest to complete an Ironman triathlon–I signed up for Ironman Louisville (IMLOU), which is in 4 weeks from yesterday–I have taken up century (100+ mile) rides as training runs. In 2013, I completed the Horsey Hundred; it was my first organized bike ride. That convinced me that I might be able to pull off an Ironman, given sufficient training.

Last year, I completed the Kentucky Century Challenge–the Redbud Ride, Horsey Hundred, Preservation Pedal, and Hub City Tour–to earn my free cycling jersey.

This year, I decided to use the KCC rides to prepare for IMLOU 2015.

The Redbud Ride was brutal, with the first 33 miles in cold and rain, but I finished strong.

The Horsey Hundred was excellent. I finished comfortably.

The Preservation Pedal was a soaker, with non-stop rain. But I finished without a problem.

In July, I biked the IMLOU course. All 112 miles. It was tough, but not as bad as the KCC rides.

But going into the Hub City Tour, I had some setbacks.

(1) On August 30, I was biking the IMLOU course. I had done a nice swim, and was only a mile into the bike ride when I wiped out. I hit some uneven pavement and went down hard. Broke the helmet, tore my jersey, got some nice road rash, and sprained both wrists. I got 40 miles in, but had to abandon the ride when MrsLarijani–who was riding SAG–started having car trouble.

(2) On September 5, I was biking in downtown Louisville. I was 54 miles into a planned 100-mile ride when I nailed a pothole on 2nd and Jefferson Street. Went down very hard. Broke the helmet in 3 places, and wrenched my middle back. Ended up in ER. CT scans were normal: no head injury. X-rays were negative. Back spasms were nasty, however.

So, going into the Hub City Tour (September 12), I had 2 jobs:

(1) Finish the ride.

(2) Don’t crash!

Making matters worse, the HCT is the hardest of the KCC rides. After an easy 48 miles, the middle 34 has brutal hills and nasty headwinds.

What I didn’t know: the road quality was downright horrible: lots of potholes, gravel, cracks, and uneven pavement, often at the bottom of downhills. This was not the case last year.

The ride was very difficult from the get-go. To play it safe, I stayed with the slow ride group. The first 48 miles were easy except for the road quality. The hills weren’t bad, and the weather was pleasant except for the headwind.

The middle 34 miles were awful: bad road quality, merciless headwind, and steep hills. Because of the road quality, it was hard to go for the momentum on downhills, and that made the uphills more difficult. By mile 80, we had seasoned riders who were really hurting.

But I was feeling great except for my butt being sore from the saddle!

The last stage was relatively flat, but most of the group was in pain from the previous sections. Once we turned onto Ring Road–the main road circling Elizabethtown–I felt very good. I got into the aero position and blasted forward. When we turned into E-Town Sports Park, I was all aero. I even stayed aero after turning onto Mulberry Street, catching up to someone who had been ahead of my group the entire time. I left him in the dust as I turned onto Helm Street.

After finishing, I topped it off with a small transition jog.

Whereas I was very soreafter finishing the HCT last year, I wasn’t even stiff this year. I even ran 10 miles the next day. No pain at all.

I have now earned my 400-mile jersey. That was one of my goals for the year.

My other goal still is pending: Ironman Louisville. October 11.

One more brick (ultra-long workout) to go, and then taper begins…

A Dark Shadow on a Great Day: Horsey Hundred 2015

I was expecting a nice ride at this year’s Horsey Hundred (HH).

Unlike the Redbud Ride four weeks ago, there was no storm activity remotely in the forecast; the morning temperature was in the mid-50s, and the expected high temperature was in the high 70s or low 80s. I figured that might make the back 50 a little tough, but the front 50 would be pretty easy.

This year, the HH folks added a rest stop in Frankfort, which basically ensured that riders would never have to go more than just north of 15 miles between rest stops. And they went out of their way to ensure that none would run out of food.

I decided to go out with the Slow Ride Group (SRG), which is a really fun group of riders. We departed at 0630.

The first rest stop was at almost the 16-mile mark. It felt like ten miles. I wasn’t even sweating. I drank some water–with hydration mix–from my water bottle, and headed out.

The second rest stop was at about mile 28. We all were feeling VERY good. I still wasn’t even sweating. I ate a pack of sports beans and drank some more, and headed out.

The third rest stop was at mile 42 (Frankfort). I still wasn’t sweating. Everyone felt very good. None of us were even remotely tired. I grabbed some goodies and downed some Gatorade, refilled my water bottles, and we all headed out.

The next stop–Millville–was just past the halfway point (mile 54). It was without a doubt the easiest 54 miles I had ever ridden. I wasn’t even tired. Most of the SRG folks in my cohort also felt good. The sun was coming out, and the temperature was picking up, and I was sweating, but I still felt good. 48 miles to go.

The back 48 miles were a little tougher, but still not that bad.

The next stage featured the hills of Clifton, and that was tough, but doable. They were long, gradual climbs, but I just put it in my lower gear and plodded through. In a sinister way, it felt good.

Going into the stop at mile 64, I still felt very good. Not really tired, although my butt was starting to get sore. I downed some cookies, refilled the water bottles, and moved on.

The next stage–into mile 75–was mostly rolling hills. The rollers were tough in that some of the downhills didn’t give you great acceleration, so you still had to fight the climb. It still didn’t feel that bad. At mile 75, my legs felt great. Butt was sore, but the legs were good. I put down some food, refilled the water bottles, and went back out with the group.

At mile 85, we stopped to pick up our pins. We took a few minutes to joke around, but then got down to business.

At the last rest stop–mile 93–they were serving root beer floats. MrsLarijani was there, and we split a float. My butt and neck were sore, but my legs were good. I had her put my backpack in the car–I think that was the source of my neck pain–and hit the road for the final 8 miles.

The last 8 miles felt more like 5. At the end, other than my butt and neck, I felt great. I even went for a small jog (1 mile) at the end, just to practice bike-to-run transition.

In all, it was the best century ride I’ve ever had.

Only one bad note:

At about the same time that my SRG cohort was crossing the finish line, a drunken jackass (Odilon Paz Salvidor) veered off the side of the road on Lemons Mill Pike–right at about mile 99–and then overcorrected, plowing right into 57-year-old Mark Hinkel, a longtime century rider who was three miles away from the finish.

Hinkel was killed instantly, his body coming to rest inside the bed of Salvidor’s truck.

Salvidor attempted to flee the scene, but a deputy saw Hinkel’s body in the bed of the truck and pursued Salvidor. Salvidor was charged with DUI, murder, driving without a license, fleeing and evading, and leaving the scene of an accident. (Here is the story.)

In the 38 year history of the Horsey Hundred, that is the first fatality. And it was the result of a drunk driver, and possibly one who is an illegal immigrant.

Embracing the Suck: Preservation Pedal 2014

After two century rides in 6 weeks–the Redbud Ride and the Horsey Hundred–I approached the Preservation Pedal with a cautious optimism. At the Redbud Ride, I suffered a nasty crash at mile 16, but managed to get up and ride the remaining 84 miles to finish well. 6 weeks later, at the Horsey Hundred, my neck was still a little sore from the whiplash injury.

The Horsey Hundred was no easy ride, either: the two most critical rest stops ran out of food due to loss of phone coverage and a supply truck getting lost. As a result, I rode 64 miles with little more than Gatorade. But I still finished well.

Given the fact that I ran into issues at both prior rides, I knew The Preservation Pedal would have its share of challenges. The hill profile was similar to the Horsey Hundred, and the weather forecast had the temperature getting higher than Cheech and Chong with a fresh crop of pot. The worst hills were on the front 50, but the weather would make the back 50 difficult.

I decided that my strategy was going to be to go slow enjoy the ride, and save my strength for the back 50.

Thankfully, MrsLarijani was looking out for her husband: she learned that a group with the Bluegrass Cycling Club–of which I am a member–had a “slowpokes group” leaving 90 minutes early. I decided I’d go with that group.

That turned out to be a very smart move.

The folks in that group were very laid-back, and the leader said the plan was to make every effort to stay together. Most of the people in the group–like myself–were vying for the Kentucky Century Challenge. Like myself, most of them had done the first two–The Redbud Ride and the Horsey Hundred–and needed this one to notch their qualification for the jersey.

(Completing three allows you to purchase the jersey for $30; completing all four gets you a free jersey. At the same time, it costs more to do all four than it does to do only three and pay out $30, so most folks only do three.)

Ok…back to the Preservation Pedal…

Starting at 6:30 was a great move.

On the negative side: the first rest stop had not yet opened, but that didn’t matter, as all of us had plenty of water bottles and carb/electrolyte replacers.

On the positive side: the temperature for most of the front 50 was quite mild. There was humidity, but it was bearable. Riding with a group provided great camaraderie. We were all pretty laid-back, focusing on enjoying the ride.

The hills were tough, but not that bad. They were more long than they were steep, and–in a sinister way–I enjoyed them more than the downhills. There had been a nasty thunderstorm the night before, and–as a result–there were downed branches and other debris on the course that made downhills tough. Also, there were lots of hard turns and gravel-laded portions on the course, which, again, made it hard to really let go on the downhills. As a result, I was very conservative on downhills.

The rest stops were excellent: well-stocked and well-staffed. Lots of Gatorade, powerbars, fig bars, PB&J, cookies, bananas, oranges, watermelons, orangutangs, and breakfast cereals, and fruitbats

At mile 50, the leader said, “Congratulations, folks, this was the worst part of the ride.” But honestly, it didn’t seem that bad. I actually felt pretty good.

After mile 50, the weather made a nasty turn, as the clouds disappeared, the temperature began to rise, and we began to face the headwinds.

Still, even with the heat, it wasn’t that bad. The rest stops on the back 50 were well-placed, allowing for good hydration and carb replenishment. The course was not quite as challenging as the front 50, but it still required a toughness factor. One person in our group dropped out, apparently from heat exhaustion.

We had one lady–Marianne–who earned the Badass Award. At mile 91, some idiot took a downhill too hard and sideswiped Marianne, causing her to hit a guard rail. She received some minor cuts, and her front brake was out of commission, but she still was able to finish well.

At the end, we were happy to be done. As far as courses go, this one was tough but not that bad. The weather was the biggest challenge in this ride.

In terms of endurance, I felt pretty good, although I had some minor knee and joint pain. My butt also hurt from being in the seat.

Still, as far as rides go, this was the more enjoyable of the three. Riding in a group was a smart move, and I picked a good group.

I’m glad I’ve earned my jersey, but I may still do that fourth ride for the bragging rights.

So far, looking upon the three century rides, it seems that they are a snapshot of why I like endurance events: they represent life.

At the Redbud Ride, the conditions were just about perfect, but I had a bad wreck at mile 16.

At the Horsey Hundred, I had no crashes, and the conditions were excellent, but two key rest stops were out of food.

At the Preservation Pedal, I had no crashes, and there was no shortage of food at the rest stops, but the weather was brutal.

In every endurance event–marathon, ultra-marathon, century ride–there is always going to be a “suck factor” that complicates things. Maybe you run into a hydration issue, maybe you crash for reasons outside your control, maybe it’s hotter than ideal, maybe you “hit the wall” sooner than you were planning.

When those things happen, you have two choices: you can suck it up, grind it out, and go the distance, or you can pack it in.

Just remember, though: life is like that, too. No matter how well you prepare, no matter how hard you work, no matter how well you deserve it, things will not always go as you planned. When that happens, you have two choices: you can adjust and give yourself a chance to succeed, or you can give up.

Endurance teaches you the benefits of embracing the suck.

Wreck at Mile 16: After-Action Report for 2014 Redbud Ride

Last year, I decided to ride the Horsey Hundred. While I was experienced at endurance sports—having finished several marathons and an ultra-marathon—I hadn’t trained for it. Still, I rode patiently, stayed within my limits, and braved the killer hills of Clifton to finish my first century ride comfortably. It took me just north of nine hours, but I felt pretty good.

I figured having done that last year—along with the Air Force Marathon (for the 4th time)–I’d go for the Kentucky Century Challenge. That requires doing four century (100-mile) bicycle rides: the Redbud Ride, the Horsey Hundred, the Preservation Pedal, and the Hub City Ride, all in the same calendar year. Completion of these carries a reward: a free cycling jersey, along with the bragging rights.

But first, one must complete the Redbud Ride, as that is the first leg of the challenge.

I felt good going into this one. I had doubled down on my fitness and nutrition, losing some of the flab I had accumulated during last year. I also worked harder on core and leg strength, and figured that would help with the hills.

While the weather had precluded me from doing any serious distance riding going into this ride, I was still in much better shape than I was at the Horsey Hundred last year.

The weather forecast was good: the temperature at start time was right at 50 degrees, although the projected high was in the high 70s. I figured this might make for some tough conditions on the back half of the ride. I was correct, but more on that later.

The first leg (18 miles):

The start was brisk. Initially, it was cold, but it warmed up quickly. By mile 10 I was comfortable. I was noticeably stronger on the hills, and was hanging very well with one of the main packs.

Then, at mile 16, things went really bad.

I found myself boxed in. Making matters worse, someone started passing me—close–without warning. Noticing this, I looked over to my left ever so slightly. This caused Newton’s Third Law of Motion–for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction–to kick in, causing my to veer slightly right.

Unfortunately, that was just enough to take me off the road into a very unstable area of branches, bushes, and uneven dirt. Taking this at about 20mph is not a good idea, as Newton’s Laws begin to intersect Murphy’s Laws.

I took a tumble, tried to roll with it using my shoulder. I almost succeeded.

My right shoulder and the right side of my forehead slammed into the dirt, forcing my helmet strap across my face and jarring my neck. When I had come to a rest, I felt around and looked for wounds. I saw scrapes and dings on my arms and legs, but nothing serious. I got up and noticed I was walking just fine. I tried to see if I was feeling “lucid”, as that would be a sign that I needed to go to the hospital. I felt ok, but not lucid. I didn’t feel concussed, but my face felt like it had been scraped pretty good.

The SAG (Stop And Go) personnel were there within 30 seconds after I got up. They looked me over. I had a little blood on my face, but no serious cuts. They helped me with my bike, and we determined that the bike was in good order. That being the case, I said I would like to continue. They said they’d follow me to the Crossroads Fire Department rest stop, which was 2 miles away. I got to the rest stop just fine. Once there, I washed my face and hands—determined that I had a black eye and a cracked helmet—and then downed some Gatorade and a Powerbar.

18 miles done.

Second Stage:

Unlike the crash drama of the first stage, the second stage was uneventful. The hills were mild, and the scenery was nice. I found a small group that was going at a good clip, and drafted behind them into the Livingston Rest Stop.

33 miles done. Feeling better.

Third Stage:

This was also uneventful. Like that second stage, it was scenic and comfortable. My only gripe: the Rest Stop was really just a SAG stop for bike maintenance. I didn’t see any water or Gatorade. I could have used some water there. That irked me a bit.

44 miles done. So far, so good.

Fourth Stage:

This stage was only 8 miles, but it was a mother. Most of the stage was scenic and enjoyable, but the infamous Tussy Hill—which has a 23% grade—put hair on almost everyone’s chest. That was murder. But right after that was the Letterbox Baptist Church rest stop. These folks were fabulous. There was lots of good food, Gatorade, water, energy bars. A lot of folks were in line for pizza, but I stayed away from that. I went for my water, Gatorade, and some energy bars.

I lost some time at the rest stop because of the long lines for food and restrooms.

52 miles done.

Fifth Stage:

From here, the heat started picking up. The winds—headwinds—also picked up. Because this stage was just south of 24 miles long, I decided that I’d stop at the gas station at mile 61 and buy a Powerade. I lost 10 minutes waiting for the cashier, but it was worth it: I was able to get some fluids and some badly-needed carbs down. This paid off well.

61 miles done.

From there, the remaining 15 miles into the McWhorter Christian Church rest stop were uneventful, except for the noticeable heat and headwind.

The McWhorter Christian Church rest stop was one of the best. They really went the extra ten miles for the cyclists.

76 miles done.

Sixth Stage:

While this one was only ten miles long, it was brutal, as the headwinds and the heat started taking a toll on the riders, including myself. I had gone out of my way to stay hydrated, but my efforts still fell short of the glory. My neck—which I jarred in the crash at mile 16—was starting to hurt. I had energy, but I knew I was getting close to the “wall”, that point in a long-distance event where one’s glycogen runs out. As a marathoner, I know how to deal with that, but it isn’t pleasant.

Pulling into the Long Branch Rest Stop at mile 86, I felt very good and very tired. Some of the folks who had been in the ride with me were joking around with me about my crash at mile 16.

One of the race directors, who had assisted me when I had my crash, told me, “You’ve got one nasty hill left, but it’s pretty mild going into London after that. You’ve got this one.”

86 miles done.

Final Stage:

He was right: that last hill was a humdinger. Not quite as bad as Tussy Hill, but close. But after that, the heat and headwind were the only remaining nuisances—aside from 13 miles—that stood between me and the finish. I was tired; my neck was sore; I had clearly hit “the wall.” But I was going to finish well.

To my surprise, I finished this one an hour faster than I finished the Horsey Hundred. All in spite of the crash at mile 16, the nasty heat, the headwinds, and the long food and potty lines at the rest stops. Other than my neck, I felt pretty good.

Overall, this was a nice ride. In future rides, I will stay the heck away from the side of the road, and stay behind large groups.

It’s not only safer, it gives you draft advantage.

Obesity in the Church

No, I don’t mention this in the context of male-female relations. That horse has been slaughtered over here many times.

Oh noes. This is about a larger problem.

I used to joke about how I always thought “Full Gospel” was a reference to the size of pastoral waistlines. In fact, I often wondered if Dunlop’s Disease (“stomach dun-lopped over my belt”) was a prerequisite for being a pastor.

But it’s no longer a joking matter.

Not long before I got married, JRC, one of the members in my youth group–during my tour of duty as a youth minister–died at age 34 from complications of Type II diabetes that had long been exacerbated by his chronic obesity.

Just last week, a friend of mine–CD–from a previous church life died at age 36 from congestive heart failure. No one knew he had it, until he developed pneumonia and ended up in the hospital, where the docs discovered that his heart was dangerously weak. He had no chance.

CD was a cheerful guy, albeit socially awkward because he was mentally handicapped. But CD was also quite rotund: he was a heavy eater–he was one of those guys who would raid the potlucks and go for the all-you-can-eat buffets. While obesity does not always cause CHF, I’d hazard a very educated guess that his lifestyle was a huge contributory factor.

I say none of this to pile onto CD or JRC. They were each mentally not quite all there; my gripe was the larger culture–including their own parents–who coddled them too much and enabled their lifestyles.

At the same time, their cases bring home a larger issue that–I must confess–Christians as a group need to address soberly.

No, I’m not the food police. Nor have I any desire to micromanage what you put into your mouth.

At the same time, last time I checked my bible, gluttony is a sin. And while all obesity is not the result of gluttony, a heck of a lot of it in the Church is. (If you disagree, then fine, but then it is on you to show that Christians who attend church regularly have a genetic issue that facilitates this more so than Buddhists.)

I DO put the blame squarely on the pastors in this one. It pisses me off, because their negligence is feeding a culture that is leading to higher morbidity and loss of vitality, on top of presenting a mockery of a witness for the Gospel.

My $0.02 on Rachel Frederickson, Season 15 Winner of The Biggest Loser

Of course Rachel Frederickson lost too much weight too fast. And yes, at first glance she appears anorexic. I’ve dated a gal who was anorexic. I know what anorexic looks like. Rachel looks anorexic. And if that is the case, then she has swapped one dangerous situation (catastrophic obesity) for another (anorexia).

That’s not to blame Rachel; she was in a competition that rewards pure weight loss at any cost, the only surprise is that this is the first time any contestant has done what she has done. (Or if she is not the first one, she certainly is the first to look as if she has.)

Oh no. This one is on the folks at The Biggest Loser. They have fostered a culture of “lose weight at any cost”, and this is the result. The only surprise is that Rachel is the first winner to look this drastic.

By focusing solely on weight loss, TBL promotes unhealthy practices in their “reality show” competition. Other contestants have admitted going to extreme measures to “make weight” for the weigh-ins, and it has not been uncommon for contestants, even winners, to regain every pound and then some.

But Rachel is the first winner to actually “look” unhealthy.

This should force TBL to take a long, fresh look at their format, and make some major changes. Here’s what I suggest:

(1) Fire every trainer and “expert” currently on the show. Irrespective of what good Bob, Jillian, and Dolvett have done, the time has arrived for new faces who will foster a new culture.

(2) Expand the contest to an entire year: three months at the ranch, and 9 months at home. Provide a prize for those who win at the ranch (perhaps $100,000) while allowing all contestants–including those eliminated–to be eligible to compete for the top prize at the end of the year. The contestant with the best performance off the ranch would get a prize (perhaps $100,000) and the overall winner would get ($250,000). This would create a potential for a winner to take home $450,000. Even an eliminated contestant could still win up to $350,000.

(3) Create a new standard–a Wellness Index–that is age-calibrated to score each contestant. That index should include a number of factors: lean body mass, body fat percentage, V02MAX, blood sugar, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, and performance in selected physical activities. Provide each contestant with a score at the start of the season, and–each week–score them on how much they improve their score against that benchmark.

(4) Create an additional standard that would serve as a bonus that can help in close competitions. This standard would be behavior-based and would focus on food choices at home, preparation of meals, food selection at restaurants, ability to avoid unhealthy choices, getting proper exercise. This can include additional points for completing athletic events, such as 5K races, 10Ks, all the way up to ultramarathons and triathlons, with higher scores for more difficult events. (And winning any event would carry even more points.)

This would allow for some “game playing” on the ranch while rewarding sustained performance over the course of the year.

The Biggest Loser is a Real Letdown

So far, season 13 of The Biggest Loser is well short of the hype of its mantra: “No Excuses”.

At this point, nearly every one of the contestants–except, save, a couple of the older fogeys–is but a scheming game-player who won’t act like a grownup.

The “red” team has been a colossal disappointment, as none of the folks have the balls to confront the catty, scheming antics of Conda. She’s been at her games ever since the start of the season–even once showing flagrant disrespect to Dolvett–and yet no one has stood up to her decisively and told her to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

In this past episode, the “aqua” team–Adrien and Daphne–earned their spots back on the ranch, as they were able to lose sufficient weight at home. Adrien was put on the “red” team whereas Daphne was put on the “black” team. They were given immunity for their week back–provided that they did not gain any weight–although their weight losses would count for their respective teams.

Conda and Kim were disdainful of Adrien and Daphne from the get-go. In their initial meeting, Adrien–when asked–said that, at home, he and Daphne trained for 14 hours per day, as he lost 34 pounds and she 26 pounds in their month at home.

Immediately, that set off BS indicators, as well it should have. (Aspiring Navy SEALS in BUD/S might train that long, but they are in tip-top shape going into the training. Adrien was clearly exaggerating.)

At the same time, the team response was totally inappropriate. Conda and Kim went off about the perceived arrogance that the claim showed; at the same time, they should have been helpful and said, “That much work doesn’t jibe with the weight you lost. That’s indicative of a problem with food discipline, and that will be an issue here. You’re going to need to work on that or you won’t be able to lose your weight.”

Daphne did not help her cause, as she was often skipping the “homework”.

To his credit, Adrien was an otherwise hard worker. He was able to keep up with the rest of the team, and seemed to be putting in his due efforts. Unfortunately, the lack of food discipline killed him: he only lost 2 pounds, and that did not help the rest of the team.

While the team was understandably disappointed in Adrien’s performance, they overlooked a larger issue”: Conda had also lost only 2 pounds. This is worse, because Conda has been there longer, and was expected to have the discipline instilled from 5 weeks on the ranch. Instead, Mark, Kim, and Conda tore into Adrien, even as the rest of them voted Nancy off.

What’s bothersome is that, while Adrien was a little “loud”, there was no effort to reach out to him. Instead, the rest of the team effectively said, “Screw you…we don’t want you here.” And yet, not one of that team had the balls to stand up and tell Conda to STHU and knock it off with the corrosive BS.

The “black” team isn’t much better. While they have a few hard workers, they also have a lot of petty game-players as well. Some of that is due to immaturity; some of that is due to lack of testicular fortitude.

A group of wussy Southern Baptist preachers would have more balls than this group has.

This brings me to the two people who need to be called out: Bob Harper and Dolvett Quince, two trainers who are otherwise very solid. That they have not addressed this with the trainees is quite the oversight on their part. If they don’t confront this soon, this season will be a disaster, and they will have only themselves to blame.

Good Work, Denninger

His latest post–about medical costs and the inability of government to spend at the current levels of growth on a sustained basis–is spot-on. Aside from the pure government spending side of this, there are other monster issues that need to be addressed, particularly (a) the government-medical-financial complex and (b) the impact of price controls in other countries (i.e. England, Canada) on our prices.

Still, the last time I saw a Denninger video clip, I swore he had to have lost some serious weight. At the end of his latest post is a before/after picture which confirmed what I thought. Very impressive.

His fitness advice is very sound. While some people are otherwise only marginally able to control their weight, most Americans don’t have that problem: it’s purely a matter of lifestyle and reasonable fitness is attainable.

Getting a good handle on food intake–especially portion control and calorie quality while ensuring that enough protein is consumed–is important. There is plenty of room for variety in this: from Atkins on one hand to pure vegan on the other. Get with your doc first, and find out which diets are more optimal for your condition. (From some studies I’ve seen, Type 2 diabetes sufferers may benefit from Atkins whereas heart patients with major blockage might benefit from the vegetarian path recommended by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. But I am neither a doc nor a nutritionist, so what I am saying here is not to be taken as Gospel advice.)

As for activity, unless you are severely handicapped or otherwise have a major medical condition that precludes you, you can exercise. As Denninger points out, there are lots of options out there, even for a variety of disabilities.

For most of you, fitness is a choice.