Blogs > Lighten Up With Jim

55-year-old James Horejs, of Mentor, is a contestant in The News-Herald's Lighten Up in 2013.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Put a Fork in Me - I'm Done

The Johnnycake Jog is complete.  My finish was 376th place with a time of 45:32 or a pace of 9:07 per mile.  The race was a great experience and well-organized.


I did not do so well since I ran a careful, cautious race with a slow start from the back of the pack.  All this was to avoid injury and ensure running the distance without stopping.  I missed my goals time-wise, but far exceeded my goals fun-wise.


Compared to the race previews, I found a few  things to be a little different for me.  The hill up Fairgrounds Road was not as steep as I thought it would be, although I did attack it slowly with short strides.  Route 84 was not as shady as I hoped.  Old Johnnycake is more steeply downhill than I would think.  I passed a lot of people down that stretch, but since it was about the halfway mark, people were beginning to drop like flies about then.  The long stretch (2+ miles) down Route 20 was H-O-T!  Even though the day was cooler than many recent days, the pavement radiates the heat from the bright sun.  Route 84 was the same way, to a lesser extent.


I made a big mistake at the end of the race.  I started a "kick" with the finish line in sight, probably the last 200 yards.  What I failed to realize is the finish line is about 100 yards past the start banner.  After passing 15 people to what I "thought" was the finish line, about 12 of those people passed me right back  on the way to the actual finish line.  (Jim the dummy)


It was nice to see Neal Nelson near Lowe's cheering us on.  (I should have given him my shopping list)  After the race, I ran into the Nelson sisters, Ann Plumley and Sarah Cannon, who seemed to be happy with the accomplishment of completing the five-mile race.


So that was the race.  After thirty-one years away from running and a lot of weight lost in this contest, I guess I am back to being a runner, albeit a rank amateur recreational runner.  Call me a T-shirt collector with skinnier legs.


What's left?  Our final assessments today and weigh-in on Saturday.  See you all then.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Upcoming Race

The Johnnycake Jog is Sunday and I have to admit, I am a little worried.  Call it karma.

In previous blogs, I made a few cocky and overly-confident references to the race and how I expected it to be easy.  Over the last month or two, the physical toll on me from the extra effort from this contest tacked on to normal life has kicked me in the pants.  It has given me a dose of humility and respect for all the work we have done in the last six months.

So why am I worried about a simple 5-mile race?

First, I haven't run a race in over thirty-one years.  Chalk up a little anxiety to that.

Second, a few things about this contest have not worked out exactly as I thought they would.  One of them is the reality of my age.  Do I ache all day and do my joints creak like a rusty gate?  No, I feel great.  But I do find that there are physical limitations at 55.  Flexibility is one of them.  I can run pretty well, but no way do I have the flexibility, nor the stride I had at 25.  I thought I might get that old flexibility back, but it has mostly avoided me so far.

"Goodbye 7-minute miles".  Or, maybe "Hello, Yoga" or "Hello, Chiropractor".

Third, running in my youthful days never resulted in an injury.  Not one.  Now, at 55, I already pulled a calf muscle, even after being careful.  Fortunately, I was able to slowly and methodically nurse myself back to normal without impacting my progress in the contest.  I discovered that I can't just run through cramps like I did 30 years ago, either.  Once in a while, my feet hurt a little more than I remember.  Even though I have been running for about three months, I just don't feel in top shape.  I "hope" for that to come in the next several months, but no longer "expect" it.

Maybe "top shape" is not what it's cracked up to be.  Perhaps it is relative, although I don't know of any of my relatives who are in better shape than me right now.

Getting back to the Johnnycake Jog:  Will I finish the race?  More than likely, even if it is on a stretcher.  Will I do great?  Probably not as well as I would like.  Why?  Because I decided not to push myself too hard.  Instead, I plan on having fun.  I do not want to injure anything I might need for other daredevil tasks like "walking" or "breathing".

Yes, I will have fun on Sunday despite the recent realization that it will be too early for Harry Buffalo to be open when I run (or crawl) by.

On the other hand, I will get a new T-shirt, so life is good.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

On Auto-Pilot

A lot of my friends have noticed my recent weight loss.  I hand out coupons for Lenscrafters to the ones that don't.  This is flattering and makes me proud of my accomplishments.

After the usual conversation that begins with "How did you do it?", the talk moves along to "Will you ever be able to keep it off?".

This is not even a concern to me.  There have been so many tweaks to my life, that I feel like I am flying on auto-pilot.  Here are some examples:

Yesterday, I attended a graduation party for the daughter of a fraternity brother of mine.  Did I stick to veggies and water?   No.  I actually pigged-out on a variety of sandwiches and even had a few light beers.

Is this due to indifference?  No.  I know that I had completed a harder-than-average workout that morning, and then skipped lunch since the party was on the early side.  I also know my metabolism is still cranked-up enough to burn it off fairly quickly.  And the next party isn't for quite some time, so this is a once-in-a-while deal.

Last night, we had overnight guests.  My dear girlfriend's son and his wife from Columbus crashed at our house since they were in Cleveland for their friend's party.  I helped cook them breakfast: bacon and eggs.  The frying pan felt like some strange tool for some alien task.  I am so out of practice on frying eggs that I broke one of the egg yolks.  I never do that.

After scrambling up and eating the "mistake", I had my usual bowl of Total.

Our guests departed shortly after breakfast, so we gave them a lot of our barbecue leftovers to help us avoid the temptation of all that decadent food from last week.

With the rest of the day to ourselves, we made our plans: buy healthy groceries for the week and perhaps stop for lunch someplace with good food choices.  Grill up a bunch of chicken breasts for dinner and lunches for the week.

With all this heat, the cardio workout will be in the evening.  It will not be skipped, either.

That's what auto-pilot does to your brain.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The End is Nothing to Dread

In their blogs recently, a lot of contestants have noted the "light at the end of the tunnel" - the end of the contest which is approaching fast.  Many are happy with their progress, as well they should be.  Many have more goals to reach.  That includes me.  I have achieved a lot, but not quite as much as I wanted.  This was mostly due to three factors:


Lofty goals is the first issue.  I thought the weight loss would continue on a fairly even pace.  I knew it would decline at some point, but never imagined how tough losing weight would be these last three months.  Maybe I lost too much too fast.  But I'm not complaining.


Another issue preventing my "best case" weight loss was me rewarding myself for my early accomplishments.  These rewards were not huge, but were a diversion from the diet and exercise routines that got me where I am in the first place.  But I'm not complaining.


The last issue preventing me from reaching all of my goals was a minor injury.  I pulled a calf muscle two weeks ago and just got back to running yesterday.  This is just in time to run the Johnnycake Jog in a week and a half.  Hopefully, this is the first of many more road races to come.  But I'm not complaining.


Am I happy?  You bet.  I do take exception, though, to what many have mentioned in their blogs.  They say that when the contest is over, it begins an "ongoing struggle", "a never-ending battle with weight" and other ways of phrasing the same dreadful idea.  I do not agree at all and question their negativity.


The end of this contest should be the dawn of a new life.  A life that brings with it new energy, new opportunities for fun and fitness, and a new wardrobe.

[Pause for cheers from the female contestants who get to go clothes shopping]


There is nothing stressful here, nor should there be.  The lifestyle changes we have made should put us on auto-pilot.  Reach for an apple, not a bag of chips.  Salads should be: "hold the cheese and croutons - dressing on the side".  Limit the red meat.  Have fish once or twice a week, but not at the "All-You-Can-Eat" church fish fry.  In fact, get everything fried off your food radar.


Some unhealthy foods may still have their place in our lives, but only once in a while and perhaps only after a deserving day - for example, a day with a good workout at the gym.


I look forward to the end of the contest, but do not dread the first day afterward.  Nobody should.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Final Barbeque Scorecard (I can do this)

My barbeque Saturday went really well.  Thanks to a lot more work being done than food consumed, it only cost me a mere one pound.

The "work" consisted of moving and setting up a huge amount of stuff:  banquet tables, chairs, tents, cookers, coolers, and wheelbarrows full of firewood for two fire pits.  And I'm probably forgetting something.

The "food' consumed was a "cook's taste" of just about everything as it was completed, plus some on-going "quality control".  (I would NEVER serve my guests anything I wouldn't eat).  A rib or two, a slice of beef brisket, a clump of pulled pork, a chunk of smoked turkey, a spoonful or two of macaroni and cheese, and a piece of smoked salmon.

Outside of a few smoked bacon-wrapped jalapenos, I gave myself dispensation on veggies for the day.  Spinach and broccoli have no place at a REAL barbeque.

Throughout the day, I drank a few light beers to wash down this mess.  Some cookies were eaten only to avoid hurting the feelings of my guests who worked hard to supply those desserts.

One pound gained for more "cheating" than I have done in five months combined... I'll take it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

New Aerobic Activity

Things have a way of working out.  I was trying really hard to break 160 lbs by the weigh-in, but missed by less than a pound.

The reason was obvious.  It was something I have tried to avoid the entire duration of this contest: an injury.

Last Tuesday, I was running on the track at the Y on a day that was too hot for outside.  I got a cramp in my calf, then tried slowing down to a jog to loosen it up.  Big mistake.  I heard a pop, pulled up lame after about 30 minutes and needed a few days of rest.  Although I feel 30 years younger now, my 55 year-old brain took over and said "Forget this.  Rest up until you are 100 percent."

Just as I started to feel better with virtually no pain, I was climbing up the basement stairs the other day and felt the same funny calf muscle pull.  Another two days off.

With Fourth of July weekend and our first barbeque approaching on Saturday, I discovered a new "aerobic" activity: building a BBQ smoker.  This has been an ongoing project and is truly an engineering marvel - my adult science project that puts out really good food.

Your average BBQ smoker is an ashtray compared to this baby.  And it has all the bells and whistles: an industrial automation controller, automatic cook chamber door opener, 3-zone industrial-grade temperature sensors, and a light beacon to indicate whether hickory wood needs to be added to the firebox.  And these are only a few features.

You may scoff all you want at this project, but believe me, building it is WORK.  Real work.  Handling firebrick and steel bars weighing 10 or 20 lbs apiece, bending, lifting, climbing and stooping over to grind, weld, and assemble this monstrosity is physically grueling.  Some nights, this work goes on into the wee hours.  It is a labor of my love of BBQ.

Not surprisingly, after only a couple days of this slave labor, I hit my intermediate goal of under 160 lbs this morning.  Fabricating a few more accessories for my cooker will probably get me to my final weight goal.  And get me a cool cooker as a bonus.  A win-win situation.

Now I know what all the contestants mean who blog about gardening.  The bending and stooping has to be a real workout.

It's Tuesday.  Why doesn't Cabanas have baby back ribs on the Light Menu?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Are Barbecues Diet Doomsday Disasters?

After this contest ends, life will return to normal.  A new normal, for sure, but it will still include one of my favorite seasons:  barbecue.  Barbecue is not really a "season", the time to barbecue just tends to fall in the summer when it is nice out.  I have been known to stand outside in the winter tending to the smoker for hours when a bout of cabin fever and a taste for ribs reared its ugly head.  I refuse to wait until summer when I get the urge for BBQ during other times of the year.

The problem with barbecue is that it typically begins with huge amounts of fatty meat.  Add rubs that are high in sodium and slather on sweet, sticky sauce and you have, at best, a sabotaged diet.  At worst, a heart attack waiting to happen.

No doubt, barbecue is one of my biggest passions.  I am proud to be a Kansas City Barbecue Society certified judge.  I have not only judged numerous sanctioned BBQ events, I have been fortunate enough to be a guest cook with a team that has won Grand Championships, so I have learned from the best.  Many of my Facebook friends can be seen on BBQ Pitmasters.  I am currently fabricating a custom smoker and hope to compete someday on my own.

Enough about what's down the road.

This year, barbecuing will be done with a mind chock-full of lessons learned from Lighten Up.  I need to use the knowledge from
this contest applied to ridiculous parties where I smoke 100 pounds of meat.

I wrote earlier that I hope to compete one day in a sanctioned BBQ contest.  To prepare for that, I throw a few barbecues throughout the summer and "practice" on my guests.  In fact, w
e are throwing our first BBQ event this upcoming Fourth of July weekend for 30 or 40 of my dear girlfriend's co-workers, which has become an annual tradition.

A sanctioned KCBS BBQ competition consists of four categories: chicken, ribs, pork shoulder, and beef brisket.  I make all of these meats at my events, plus a significant amount of side dishes.  These side dishes are usually anything that can be wrapped with bacon.  And I make a mean smoked mac-n-cheese, too.

Although my guests rave about such a menu, one thing to do to make this event a little healthier is to add other food options like smoked salmon and smoked turkey.  Salads, coleslaw, and baked tortilla, whole wheat pita, or flax seed chips with healthy, fresh salsa are suitable replacements for the numerous bacon-wrapped foods.  I will also cut back on portions, go lighter on the salt and sauce, and probably not drink beer all day and night while tending to food that sometimes takes 12 to 16 hours to cook.  Drinking water is obviously a better beverage option.

I will never quit eating BBQ.  You will have to pry that rib bone out of my cold, lifeless hand first.  But I will be a little more health-conscious about it.  And besides, it's only a few times a year.