May 23, 2018 - Reston, VA
By Tom Barbieri @heytombarbieri
So this is it. Tonight a Washington DC sports team has a chance to make it to a championship game/series for the first time in 20 years - and tonight, just like it was in 1998, it's the Washington Capitals.
This can happen at game seven of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals tonight at Amalie Arena in Tampa (8 pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS).
Can the Capitals do this? They are the more physical team, have the ability to score more goals (…3.44 GF/GP - the most in the playoffs this year), and the best natural goal scorer in the history of the NHL in Alex Ovechkin.
The Capitals dominate the NHL playoffs stats sheet of teams still in the tournament:
- Points (Ovechkin 21 & Kuznetsov 23)
- Goals (Kuznetsov & Ovechkin both at 11)
- Assists (Carlson & Backstrom both at 12)
- Plus-Minus (Orpik at +14)
- GAA (Holtby at 2.16).
But will they...? It'll take the Capitals all four lines going after each shift like it's their last that will ultimately push this Capitals team to the the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Capitals will be playing their 19th game of the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight. This is the most of any team and I think favors the Capitals due to their regular (…and post-season) swings in performance. With a 3-0 domination of game 6, we may see the Capitals on the same upswing that we saw against the Penguins in the conference semis, and the first two games of these conference finals.
Tampa Bay has the experience and leadership that gives them the fortitude needed to win big games when the stakes are high. There are five players on this Lightening team that know the Capitals very well - Kunitz, Miller, McDonagh, Callahan, and Girardi. This experience paired with the goal scoring finesse and talent of Kucherov, Point, and Palat, will make this one of the best playoff hockey games we'll ever see. The only problem is that Tampa Bay has only three players in the top ten of points and goal scoring only for the NHL Playoffs. All other categories are dominated by the Capitals.
The power play will be huge for the Capitals. Washington has a PP success of 29.8% to Tampa’s PK efficacy of 73.9%. But Washington certainly needs to box out the Lightening on their power play as the Capitals have a 75% kill to Tampa’s 29.8% power play conversion. This means of what we’e seen recently in the Capitals Eller, Wilson, DSP, and Orpik need to keep those careless penalties to a null and not give extra room on the ice for Stamkos or Kucherov to dominate the puck.
Then we have our goalies - Braden Holtby and Andrei Vasilevskiy will be a big difference in this game; but not the only difference. This is the most even goalie match-up we've seen in years. If these guys are on, and moving through the crease like their respective teams have been providing the offense, we’ll see a 1-goal win.
And, of course, all this doesn’t really matter. Does it? Tonight it's sixty minutes of two-hundred foot hockey that will determine our Eastern Conference champion. This is why NHL has the best playoff format of any major sport. I know we’ll be watching with turbulent emotions as these two teams play the games of their lives tonight.
I’ll take the Capitals for the win. 3-1.
Dear NY Mets Fans -
It’s really not a bad as you think. Perk up!
We all know your beloved New York Metropolitans started the season 11 - 1. New manager. Top pitching rotation in the League. Big clutch hitters like Cespedes, Cabrera, and Jay Bruce. “Yeah, we’re going all the way this year…!”
But wait….Ok. Yeah, we know it’s been a tough few weeks.
Over the last 23 games, your team has gone 7 - 16 losing the last two games to the Reds, getting swept two series in a row - first by the Braves and then the Colorado Rockies.
Your pitchers have been plagued with more ‘injuries’, and the once ‘Dark Knight’ has succumbed to his inability to deal with the spotlight of The Big Apple and the temptation of the late night clubs, and recover complete from two over-use injuries.
But it’s only May 11th. Still a ways to go. Chin up!
Another thing - Stop comparing your team to the Yankees. The YANKEES!! I swear, hearing you guys complain about the Mets, then bitch about the Yankees is like listening to George Costanza complain about not being able to eat soup with a fork. FFS!
Newsflash: The NY Mets are not the NY Yankees. They’re not the Atlanta Braves, nor the Arizona Diamondbacks. They are the NY Mets.
Let’s talk Yankees for a minute - that evil ‘big brother’ of a team across town - it’s a different team!
The Yankees have been around for 115 seasons. I often hear Mets fans bitch about how they’re sick and tired of hearing how the Yankees have won 27 World Series championships.
Here are a few facts about the Yankees that may put you Mets fans at ease:
Enough about the Yankees.
Let it go!
Even though it is ‘still early’, the Mets may not have a great year - Or they might. Does that mean that they are not playing baseball? Does that mean you should stop going to games and watching them on TV? Does that mean you should bitch and complain how ONE PITCHER didn’t turn out to be the greatest Mets pitcher of all time? Shall I go on?
Look at it this way - the season has a long way to go. But even if they are still in fourth place, 15 games back in late August, you still got baseball. Have you nothing else that its all about your beloved Mets?!
If you expect your team to win every year - be the best team and provide you with gladiator-style entertainment you may as well call yourself a Yankees fan. Now, I know we don’t want that now do we..?
In a city like NY - ‘The Greatest City in the World’ <SMH> you cannot expect such loud-mouth fans of the cross-town Yankees to make you feel any better.
Hang in there Mets fans. Your team will return to the greatness it had achieved in ’69, ’73, ’86, and 2015. Sit back, watch some baseball, drink some beers, and enjoy the sport.
The Voice of Reason, and a Constantly disappointed Nationals Fan
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
– Michael Jordan
I was never really a basketball fan. I played in the school yard and on neighborhood courts in my youth or as a young adult but basketball was never a sport I felt passionate about ever, nor even now. But there was a time in the early nineties when I noticed something special about the sport and one of it’s teams: the Chicago Bulls. It was one player - Micheal Jordan.
The guy had drive, focus, and all out consistent hard effort. These habits, combined with his talent and skill, have driven Jordan to become the center of the debate around who is the greatest basketball player of all time. It was these habits he executed everyday in practice and when playing games that not only made him great, but made almost every player on his team better. In fact, Michael Jordan was so good, that he forced his opponents to ‘play up’ which made even them better.
It is inarguable that without the positive daily habits, effective leadership, and consistent high effort of Michael Jordan, most of the Chicago Bull players of the nineties would not be looked at today as they are, nor would the Bulls have won six NBA championships.
Today these habits and traits in balance - skill, leadership, and high-effort - can be identified in great players across many different sports - most notably Tom Brady of the NFL's New England Patriots, Sydney Crosby of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, LeBron James of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, and Jose Altuve of MLB’s Houston Astros.
It’s clear that it’s takes a combination of skill, effort, leadership, and the right dose of plain old game intelligence to build championship winning teams - on and off the field, court, or ice. So how can we teach our kids this concept?
I know there’s this hidden taboo about driving our kids to win in sports. Yes, it is all about having fun and learning the game. But let’s be honest - we all want our kids to be successful. Winning, especially for our older kids, is one of many indicators used to define success. So, instead solely focusing on winning, rankings, and standings (....which often happens at ages way too young), let’s embrace how we can combine a winning mentality while still showing our kids how to really become better women and men through sports.
My wife and I are privileged to watch our two boys have fun playing a sport they love - ice hockey. It’s been nearly eight years since our boys, 12-year old JB and 11-year old AB, took the ice for the first time for countless practices and games. Since then, we’ve been to many tournaments and travel games all over the east coast including some in the best sports cities like New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, St Louis, Toronto, and Ottawa. We even had the amazing experience of watching our boys play on the same rink in Lake Placid where the USA Olympic Hockey team beat the Soviet Union, and ultimately Finland to win the gold medal in 1980.
All this has been great! But as last season was winding down, and as the current season picked up pace, I’ve seen both our boys grow an interest in things away from the ice. Acknowledging this change, I began to think about how I can show them the ways to connect effort and experiences in sports with competencies that carry-over to day-to-day life and to other interests. They both still love hockey, but my job now is to help them understand these connections and how they apply away from sports.
It was time I took a long look at my personal values to see what I can do to develop a specific purpose-driven statement that serves my boys in a way that helps them realize and develop positive habits and behaviors from what they do in sports. To do this I would have to really harness my skills and experience as a coach and business leader. I must mold those skills so that I could deliver the message with love and in a consistent way that made them understand that what they have been doing in sport is more that just a series of highly organized and scheduled playdates with 14 of their friends at the ice rink. I mean we’re paying quite a bit of money for a six-month long season of hockey; we’re not going to finish the season without picking up some effective behaviors.
I decided to think through and write down a list of comments or words I would want them to hear from me as they were about to play a game or head to practice. As I began to craft this list, I saw it grow to about forty or fifty comments. These all came from things I have actually said, wanted to say, wished I said, and comments my wife and I shared with each other as we frequently discuss the direction the boys may want to go with sports and life. After some deep searching on what of all these thoughts I had really meant, I landed on the six most common things that have come up in conversation with them this season.
Here are the six things I tell my boys before they get on the ice for any practice or game:
Sports can be a great way to keep kids focused on the actions and behaviors that create habits to help build success in life. Those six points above can be applied to everything our kids do - sports, schoolwork, community work, etc. We must look past our coaches and teachers alone to provide this guidance. It’s our job as parents to set the tone BEFORE our kids step on the field or into the classroom. If they learn this now, they will not need us to remind them when they’re older, when it’s too late.
Thanks for reading!
Let's connect! ---> More about me here.
Listen in! ---> Listen to the JBO Podcast, - we talk sports, culture, current events, and being a parent.
Get better! ---> Tioga Wellness & Fitness Systems
In Part One and Part Two of this series, 'Like a Rock', I shared my journey of self-discovery around nutrition, health, and renewed fitness. I really appreciate readers taking time to send comments and questions. I'm still getting through the notes, so bear with me as I get back to everyone.
Welcome to Like a Rock - Part Three.
You read that I was heavily involved in social media, podcasts, blogs, and directly with authors and speakers on the topics of diet, nutrition, health, and fitness. These mediums played a pivotal role in my journey and where I have landed today. At times it was information overload, but as I discovered more about myself, I was able to filter through pretty easily.
I even had multiple appearances on a few podcasts as a guest sharing information around my experience with fitness and nutrition. I've been on a few podcasts more recently, including: Plant, Run, Family, PaleoRunner, and Ironman Year One. Check them out! I really appreciate the hosts of these show bringing me on and providing a platform for me to share my story.
These virtual interactions and opportunities provided me the exposure to many other folks that had similar stories and experiences - I found a connection with many.
I hear people shun social media as something that just distracts people from 'real' interactions and relationships. It's almost 'cool' now to not be on Facebook. I get it - It's cool to do what everyone else is not doing and sure, nothing is better than sitting down face-to-face with someone and engaging in good conversation.
But social media is a whole new dimension that makes available to us the same benefits of a face-to-face interaction, just with more possible frequency, more avail and with broader group of people with diverse experiences. Plus, no one forces you to use Facebook or Twitter. You are in complete control over how you use it. If you see something that doesn't interest you scroll through and move own.
Social media honestly helped change how I viewed and interact with others, everywhere. And in all ways...
I used to get annoyed when people would share stories about their weight loss, nutrition, and fitness success. I was judgmental and critical as I questioned methods and attempts to be healthy. As you can probably tell, I've changed my outlook on those type of success stories! I now love to hear about others and the path that brought them to success, as they've defined it for themselves.
This change in attitude has not only transcended my 'health and fitness world', but carried over to other aspects of my life. I simply find it more rewarding to interact with people. I'm no longer as selective with the people I attach to nor am I as introverted as I was couple of years ago. I've learned to find the best in people and attach to those attributes. I've stopped ranking the perceived weaknesses of others against my beliefs and attitudes. Everyone is on their own journey.
Through all these changes I've discovered one common thing: My authenticity. I've found it after almost 43 years. It took some time for me to understand it, but's it's there. I've found what makes me work - emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Physically - I'm healthy and fit. I no longer struggle to find energy and keep from being too tired. I'm without my seasonal allergies, and do not miss the headaches when I wake up each morning. My body craves healthy food now, however, I still enjoy the occasional stray from my healthy regimen, without guilt or feeling uneasy. My performance in athleticism is nearing a peak that will hopefully last many years.
Emotionally - I'm connected with myself in a way that allows me to connect with others on a deeper, more real level. The judgement is gone (...for the most part) and I do not waste energy trying to mindfully outdo other's intentions or actions. I now allow my emotional investment in my actions, intentions, and relationships with the confidence that everything will be as it is meant to be.
Spiritually - I now have outlets that provide sanctuaries for the un-found thoughts and unknown intentions that I may experience. This is through my expression in writing, my expression in endurance sports, and exploring my relationships for sharing and comfort.
I put these to work each day; and my days mean more now - each of them!
In my day job, I work as a banker helping folks manage their money while helping them plan for and executing life-changes - this pays the bills! I'm also a personal trainer and coach - this pays my passion! I'm a hockey coach for my oldest son's hockey team. It is so fulfilling to see kids achieve their best and gain confidence through sport. I see and experience the same when I help coach my younger son's baseball team. My world is all coming together.
I'm developing a renewed connection with my wife. Debby has been my partner for nearly 15 years. She has accepted me and all my challenges, growth, and successes. I will strive to give her all that she has given me.
There is still work to do. And on I go.
It's amazing that all this self-realization, discovery, and change can come from one bad experience in a lake, where I felt like a rock.
But rocks, too, can change. They can be shaped, but only over time. Small changes can adjust the form, color, and texture of a rock, but only through consistency. They can be thrown aside, or transformed into representations of love, achievement, or longevity.
Like a rock - not a bad thing to be.
Thanks for reading!
As promised at the end of my last post, I want to share how I evolved through self-discovery in nutrition for performance and everyday-life.
I went all in here - real deep!
Now that I had reached my goal weight by my target date of Marine Corps Marathon in late October 2012, I needed to up-my-game and learn as much about nutrition and diets as possible. It was at this point that I ventured into the podcast and blogging mediums, as well as social media.
By the way, I still stuck to calorie counting and 1850 a day was still my number. It worked, so why stop?
Anticipating that my body would soon plateau, if it hadn't already, in it's adaptation to renewed fitness and nutrition habits and behaviors, I really wanted to understand the 'why', 'what', and 'how' behind common diets such as paleo, vegan, fruitarian, low-carb, etc. It turns outs that all these different ways to eat are shared very loudly through podcasts, books, and through social media. So in I went!
I read and listened to folks like Rich Roll, Vinnie Tortorich, Ben Greenfield, Abel James, Mark Sisson, and a few more. These are all podcasters, bloggers, and authors. This was just the beginning. These guys had fascinating guests on their shows that turned into even more I needed to research through their books or even more podcasts and blogs. It was awesome!
Podcasts were not just about nutrition for me, but also about fitness and general well-being. Endurance Planet, Trail Runner Nation, and Marathon Training academy became some of my favorites. There are many more.
You might say this is nuts, or that I should get a life. But this WAS my life I was trying to improve. I did this because I had to know and understand what drove folks to be so passionate about the food they ate and what they saw as healthy. Fueled with the similar passion I had in my original focus to lose weight earlier in the year, I set out to educate myself on as many healthy ways of eating as possible according to how I learned about my body through this entire journey, up to this point.
More about that...(enter soapbox).
I sincerely believe it is our individual responsibility to understand as much about our own bodies as we can so as to live the most full, healthy, and authentic life as possible. I often receive a lot of crap about having such a high standard and a 'mighty' stand about this. But I think that is more other's issues, not mine. As humans and owners of this fantastic machine – the human body – we owe ourselves at least that much. This is very much NOT HAPPENING today in our country. This is why we are so unhealthy. Sometimes we care more about our cars, homes, electronics, and other material items than we do our own bodies.
OK, soapbox is away (...for now!).
Not only did I listen to numerous podcasts and read many blogs, I also engaged many of these podcasters and bloggers, AKA ‘leaders’ on or 'experts' in these diets and nutritional lifestyles through email, social media, and even in person or on the phone. It’s amazing how accessible these folks are and open to engage when simple people like me have questions.
I also had the opportunity to speak with world-renowned and widely published scientists and researchers, doctors, athletes, and coaches on numerous subjects around nutrition, exercise, sports psychology, and general behavior patterns and development. This was better than any classroom education I could've sat through. Through my questions I not only learned more about the science and theory around nutrition, but the 'real-world' APPLICATION of key concepts in these areas that is often missing in standard classroom or on-line education.
I joined Facebook groups and got real heavy with my involvement in many on-line communities and groups. Even helping some of these podcasters and bloggers design content and deliver their message to audiences all over the world. I loved it! It was a huge ego-booster, I'll admit! But at the same time, I was able to, again, identify a practical application to all the knowledge I had learned over the past year, combined with my education in the human sciences. It was like a lab class to go with my self-directed research.
Specifically, the Facebook groups were like a 24-hour, real-life look into the minds of some folks that were at different points of the same path I traveled down, and continue down today. I answered questions, received numerous messages and emails asking for individual advice. It was great! I made many ‘virtual’ friends that are still good buddies today.
Where did I end up after all this engagement and interaction? Much more self-aware!
Armed with tons of information around food, diets, and nutrition I began to put some to the test. This was great. Some stuff sucked and made me feel horrible while I heard that it worked well for others. Some foods work well for me even though those foods wouldn't be touched by certain groups. Crazy, I thought but I found out what worked for me. Through experimenting with the eating norms of a few popular diets, there at two that that really stood out to me as game-changers.
When I dove into plant-based eating styles I learned a ton about vegetables and fruits. I discovered the wide array of foods that were so incredibly nutrient-dense that I wondered why people even needed to take supplements when almost everything we needed could come from the ground, on a plant, or from a tree. I mean the type of sports performance benefit and feeling of well-being I actually experienced by eating more plants rivaled what I anticipated performance-enhancing drugs would do for any ordinary athlete. It was amazing! I used our VitaMix to create very concentrated and strategically mixed vegetable and fruit blends. It was hard to get used to it at first but my body adapted and I now actually crave vegetables like I used to crave soda and sweets. I also added plant-based fats to my eating in the form of seeds, nuts, and tree-fruit fats. The addition of fat to my diet was also a performance enhancer with obvious benefits. And yes, you can get plenty of protein from just eating plants! Plants are at least 80% of my diet today.
That's not it - there's more.
When I researched and experimented with the paleo approach to eating, I had two main take-aways. I learned how certain grain-based carbohydrates can affect my body's response to stress. Also, I discovered how sugar can accelerate the deterioration of the metabolic environment of those living very sedentary lifestyles. This was important for me to know considering diabetes and other metabolic issues ran in my family with age. It was during this phase of my journey where I began to move away from a grain- and sugar-based carbohydrate approach to providing fuel for training to more of what's termed a 'fat-adapted' approach to fueling. I continue this today.
Being fat-adapted means that my body will use fat as it's primary source of fuel for all activites and basic functions - whether it be exercising or just through the course of the day. Olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, heavy cream, grass-fed butter all became staples in my diet, that I discovered would give me this stored energy. I do not want to get too technical here as to the physiological process behind why fat works this way, but I think you get it. To sum it all up, this is where I really moved permanently to seeing food as fuel for my lifestyle.
As a result of this journey, I made a complete 180-degree turn when it came to nutrition for sports performance. I went from the very common, well-known 'carbo-loading' ritual before races or long-training sessions just about a year earlier, to completely eliminating grain- and sugar-based carbohydrates from my diet in the days leading up to these workouts or races. This was, well, against the grain. (...see what I did there?)
After my body adapted to using fat as it's primary fuel source, I ran faster needing little or no fuel during each workout session. Not only did I notice a huge difference during the exercise, but I recovered quicker with less inflammation and the groggy-ness that I was so familiar with as a standard nutritionally-guided athlete. However, I soon learned that this approach for me had it's limits once I achieved a more consistent, efficient, and generally healthy 'everyday' metabolic state. I'll explain more shortly...
In the meantime, through all this exploration, I continued to slim down and have settled at my current weight of about 173 pounds. A full 55 pounds less than that day back in May 2012. I no longer count my calories and have maintained this healthy weight for nearly a year. My biomarkers are all well-within healthy limits, and even extraordinary under the observations of my doctor, scientists, and other experts I've shared them with.
That leads to this - Where am I now?
I have two methodologies I stick to when it comes to my nutrition. Warning: This is where I get nerdy, so you're welcome!
I call one method my CORE diet, which is a term I learned from a company called QT2 Coaching. Now I got the name from them, not necessary the details of the approach. I just felt the word 'CORE' was a good descriptor of how I applied it. My CORE diet is my way of eating that is designed to provide a stable metabolic environment away from my intentions around exercise and fitness. My CORE diet consists of a lower grain- and sugar-based carbohydrate approach combined with lot's of plants (veggies, seeds, nuts, oils, fruits, etc.) and fresh, grass-fed, pastured raised meats. This is NOT low-carb! This keeps my metabolic hormones balanced so I avoid swings in mood and appetite through the day. I also build in intermittent fasting at certain intervals to help my metabolism adapt to varying conditions. The timing that determines when I intermittently fast depends on my more recent eating habits. For example, if I have a lot of meat over a few day period, I may build in two or three 12- to 16-hour fasting periods to allow my metabolic hormone levels to adjust to more usual levels. I do not recommend intermittent fasting for anyone that has not seen their doctor to be sure this is safe for them.
The second method of eating I incorporate is called my PERFORMANCE diet. This is the way of eating that is designed to support my endurance training and lifestyle. I use this approach to align specifically with the intensities that I plan on tapping into while out training or racing. To arrive at how I know what intensity utilizes which type of fuel (...fat or carbohydrate) I went out and got an Active Metabolic Test. This test showed me, for my body, at what intensities I was burning fat as my primary fuel source and/or carbohydrate as my primary fuel source. This test is available to anyone and can tell you a lot about your fitness and health. Heart rate was measured during this test and I currently use those corresponding heart rate metrics as a gauge to tell me my fuel utilization while training. So if I plan to go out for a long run, I will most likely be in the top end of my fat-utilization zone. This means I'll reduce some of the grain- and sugar-based carbs I eat the days leading up to this session and put more healthy fats in my diet. If I'm planning a session, like speed-work or hill training, these intensities will put me into my carbohydrate-utilization zone for fuel. So I'll top off some of my glycogen stores with some grain- or sugar-based carbohydrates the evening before these sessions. This allows my body to access this fuel more readily without suffering the hormonal swings leaving me needing more and more as my session progresses.
There are other practical methods I use like carb-backloading and specific supplementation to align with my body's needs during a certain period of training. It really depends on where I am in my training regimen that dictates how I add in these methods.
I hope that made sense!
This is what worked for me. While on an anatomical level, we're all pretty much the same. But physiologically, there are some differences. I'd encourage anyone to first understand their own physiology before deciding how to change or improve the same habits I did.
Come back for Part III in a couple of days, and I'll share more about taking an individual approach and rant a little bit with some opinions on how the diet-pushing agendas are incredibly mis-guided.
But first I must say that though this journey, I've landed in a safe spot with food - finally! Meaning I'm not a strict food advocate. I never judge others' food choices, because as a friend once said to me, "everyone is on their own journey." And yes, I do indulge in the fun foods once in a while. I love my pizza, wings, and of course my father in-law's blueberry pie! I'll never deprive myself of living life and letting food dictate my interactions or relationships with others. I hope others that may be struggling can find the same peace I've found. I can sum it up like this:
Instances create habits. Habits foster behaviors. Behaviors drive actions. Actions yield results.
The frequency of instances, will get you results.
Thanks for reading!
Writing through this blog has been a refreshing exercise in attaching my experiences to the attributes of the person I have become today. I never thought I would’ve fallen in such love with self-expression through writing. It's really felt great to share some things about me, that many wouldn't normally know. I appreciate the many visits to this site and the kind comments you all have shared - thank you!
Now, I want to share a more recent experience that is not unusual by any means and frankly, very cliché - its about hitting a ‘rock-bottom’ and climbing back up. I've had many people ask me about my journey over the past few months and now I'm ready to share the details. This will be a short series of posts I'll publish over the next week. So read on, and come back for more!
But before I go on, I’m intentionally staying away from making this blog about my achievements as an athlete and keeping it from becoming just another collection of best practices, tips and tricks for success, and race/event reports that just seem to highlight my feats in endurance sports over the past 25 years. There are a lot of those blogs around. I consider these achievements to be personal, regardless of performance. I prefer sharing steps to success and best practices in more of a one-on-one or smaller group interaction - more room for effective dialogue in those formats. That said, in this post, I will share a few race results because these results tie back to a greater experience. So, as for the rest of my race history, let’s leave it at this: I’ve done a lot; some good and some not so good. It’s all been a great experience!
Back in July of 2011, I arrived at what I deem the peak of my personal athleticism. This was my completion of Ironman Lake Placid. My first and only Ironman event to-date. I had trained for nearly six months with the goal to finish feeling good enough so I could relish in the accomplishment, head back to the finish line and cheer on my fellow Iron-Men and –Women to the same achievement. Mission accomplished – it was a great day shared with my wife, Deb, my two boys, my siblings, in-laws, and my step-mom. It meant so much to have them all there.
Here is a quick video of my finish. I'm the dude in the black shirt (pardon the screaming, but it was that type of day!):
I have so many great memories from that day and the week leading up to the race. One highlight that comes to mind was as I made my way back through town on my first loop of the run, I see my brother, AJ shirtless, standing in the middle of the street cheering me on as I trudged up a seemingly endless hill. Another great memory is when my other brother, Neil ran with me along Mirror Lake Drive as I completed the last mile of the marathon. Then finally, when I heard Mike Reilly call out my name and announce to the world "Tom Barbieri, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" as I made my way around the very same Olympic rink where Eric Heiden won his five gold medals in 1980, and in the shadows of the arena where the 'Miracle on Ice' hockey team shocked the world. This was breathtaking! There are many more great memories from that trip, that I will always treasure.
I purposely waited I turned 40 to complete an Ironman event, because I had developed an early respect for the sport through my close interaction with many of the pioneers of triathlon through the '90s and my work in the sport directly in the early 2000s. Plus, I was enjoying shorter events as a participant, I wanted the intensity that is Ironman training to mean something more than just saying, "I did it". So after just over 20 years in triathlon, I finally completed my Ironman. I'm glad I waited.
Fueled by the athletic bravado that 14 hours of swimming, cycling, and running 140.6 miles will give you, I got my Ironman M-Dot tattoo a few weeks later. My athletic ego was still smoldering and huge! But let's face it, I did deserve it.
For me, the honeymoon of my Ironman performance was all about freedom. Freedom to swim, bike, run, eat, and drink whatever I wanted. “I did it all” I thought to myself. Like a kid out of school – no training or fitness plan needed, and no special diet I to fuel my long training weeks.
I watched myself slowly change.
As time went on through 2011, the pseudo-endorphic high was wearing off. A combination of unfocused physical activity and poor nutrition habits were beginning to be the norm (Note: Even during my Ironman training, and through all of my athletic endeavors, my nutrition was shit!). I was sleeping poorly and going through waves of extreme high- and low-energy bouts, and mental ups and downs each day. I worked out very inconsistently. It was a #shitshow in the making, and happening!
Fast-forward to late spring 2012. Each Memorial Day weekend our local master’s swim team here in Reston, Virginia hosts an open water swim at a local lake. Usually it’s a 1- and 2-mile event, but in 2012 they offered a 5k swim. Still feeding off of ego I earned at Ironman almost a year earlier, I entered the 5k swim and trained for about two months. I was slower, for sure, but always completed my workout sessions leading up to the event
I finished the 5K swim in just under 2 hours. I was in the bottom 10 finishers. It's not my finishing place that concerned me. What was most disappointing was how I felt. It was like I was a rock, trying to stay on top of the water. Like a rock!
I got out of the lake, staggered up the boat ramp and walked up to my waiting wife. She could see the distress on my face that matched the concern she had due to how long I was in the lake. I told her I wanted to quit any future participation in endurance sports. My head was not in a good spot. I did not participate in the 1- and 2-mile swim races the next day, like I had done 4 consecutive years earlier. I was done - #dunzo. I went home and partied with my neighbors (…another Memorial Day tradition, which I love!). I fell asleep a beer- and junk food-filled Ironman athlete. What a #shitshow!
The next morning I weighed myself. I was 228 pounds at 6 feet, 1 inch.
This was my rock-bottom.
I had to take action.
Now, I’m not going to get dramatic and say that I was on the “verge of death” and that “I wanted to live long enough to see my children graduate high school.” That's not what this was about; well maybe a little bit. I needed to be proactive and finally take a stand for my own health, fitness, and overall well-being. My family history was/is not good when it comes to health and longevity in age, but my family does have a history of being strong-willed, and stubborn. I needed these traits to take over!
Going back to basics was how I started to think. I reflected back on my college experience in biology, anatomy, physiology, and nutrition. "I had all this knowledge in these sciences - how could I let myself get to this point?", I thought. I wrote down all the classes I took and what I needed to go back and review to spark my memory since my studies had nothing to do with my current or even recent day-to-day life. I reviewed macro-nutrients, calories, metabolic systems and pathways, food sources, diet plans, even basic anatomy. Anything that could help me understand what happened to my body over the past 41 years, I went after it.
My brain was recharged and I was reminded as to why I loved learning so much about the human body and it’s response to it's environment.
The Tuesday back at work after the long, and very insightful and revealing Memorial Day weekend, I took an hour and did something I now call, 'mind-to-paper' work to identify what my core personal values would come from. I first made two lists - one that listed out what would I feel like (...not look like) if I continued on the same path without making a change and one list that showed me all the potential improvements in feeling (...again, not looks) I would have if I made small, permanent changes over a period of time. I then identified the specific scenarios, feelings, behaviors, and actions that put me in a position to make poor choices with food and nutrition. Last, I wrote a short paragraph on what I thought success would look like if I traveled six months in the future. It was a figurative mind-dump.
Now that I had some vision, it was time to create goals. I landed on two:
I jumped right in and built my action plan for each goal.
Goal #1: Lose 30 Pounds
For the weight loss, I needed to understand why the food I was eating made me feel unhealthy. To start, It was about keeping track of the food I ate and the energy I burned. I used the popular calorie-tracking application, My Fitness Pal to not only keep tabs on how much food I ate and how many calories I burned, but to really help me understand how food quantity and certain calorie sources affected how I felt. Kind of like when you first put together a household budget – you need to know where your money is going before you can decide where to allocate funds when you build your budget. This is what this ‘calorie in/calorie out’ approach helped me understand. My wife playfully chuckled at me as I began to realize what millions of people have gone through in pursuit of a diet. She was very right!
After one month of this deep-dive into research, application, and continued self-discovery around how my body functioned through nutrition and the ‘theory of the calorie’, I identified that 1850 calories per day would be my plan to get me to my target, functional weight. This came from a thorough understanding of what was realistic given my life demands, regular daily patterns, and training regimen. It was an all-inclusive plan that considered all aspects of my lifestyle.
How did it turn out?
When Marine Corps Marathon (my goal date) came around I had been through a whirlwind of mental and physical adaptations. I listened to and acknowledged every feeling my body bestowed upon me. At times, I questioned all that I had learned. Other times, I celebrated the progress I made when I weighed myself twice per day and slowly (...yes slowly, but consistently) saw results over time. I fought cravings and climbed mental mountains at events and gatherings where in the past I would’ve been gluttonous and detached from the negative physiological affects of my poor nutrition habits. I continued to ask myself how a simple plan could be so difficult. And it was. But those feelings of difficulty went away as I moved closer to my goal date and saw more progress. I just needed to be consistent and keep myself motivated.
One day in early September, I had clear vision come to me in the afternoon while sitting at my desk, while at work staring out the window. It was a moment in time where I had been removed from who I'd become through this still short journey where I wanted to walk down to the Panera next door to my office building and buy three cheese pastries. However, before I could get out of my chair, I leaned over and put my hands on my face, elbows on my knees and thought to myself, “you’ve come this far, don’t let yourself down.” This was the first time in my life I was able to clearly distinguish the ‘new me’ from the ‘old me’. It was a powerful moment that I will never forget.
It was a collection of small successes, that got me to where I needed to be.
I hit my goal and started the Marine Corps Marathon at a weight of 195 pounds - 33 pounds lighter than 5 months earlier. BOOM!
Goal #2: Set a Personal Best at Marine Corps Marathon
At this point, I had been a runner for nearly 30 years. I’d run all distances up to the marathon – with 23 marathons under my belt. I was never fast relative to the top 30% of runners, always achieving average finishing times, at best, in most of my events. I was satisfied with this, no doubt. For me it was about the experience.
I had experience putting together training plans for myself and many others that helped achieved goals and personal bests for many years. But, before I sat down to draw up a plan, I needed to really assess my priority here. I do not think it’s possible to successfully lose weight via a calorie deficit-approach and train as I had always trained in the past. Meaning I had to move from training a lot (…volume) and moving to training effectively (…quality). With a limit of 1850 calories per day, weight loss became my priority because the weight would be overall driver of my health. This is how it would be.
I built a progressive training plan that moved me from June 2012 to October 2012 focusing on quality run sessions, and low volume as my body safely adapted to the limits I designed to achieve my main goal. I was very detailed and specific with every week of the plan.
I started running at 10:30 pace per mile for about 3 miles only three days a week with a longer run on the weekend. Once I saw my pace increase while feeling like I was not putting forward much more effort than I was at my slower paces, I began to run one of those days as speed work. This was in July, in Virginia and it's HOT! I'd head to the high school track on Wednesday mornings at 5 am and peel through mile, 800, and 400 repeats. I went back to basics when it came to my track sessions. Something I hadn't done since more than 15 years earlier. My first track session was about 5 miles in total. By the beginning of October, my track sessions moved to the treadmill and were as long as 12 miles. My long runs on the weekends started at 8 miles and went to 22 miles. The pace during my long runs went from a 10:44 average per mile to a 9:31 average per mile on my last long run in mid-October. I did the plan. I was consistent. It worked. I was CONSISTENT.
This was the first time I followed my own training CONSISTENTLY. I did not miss one training day - not one!. If I had to, I ran at 4 am. I ran at night, if I needed to. I was able to balance my responsibilities as a dad, husband, employee, coach, etc. all because I wanted this goal THAT MUCH – I was motivated. I wanted it.
How did it turn out?
This Marine Corps Marathon was extra special. For the very first time, some one close to me was right next to me on the start line. My brother, Neil, was going after his first marathon finish. We ran our long runs together. As I saw Neil's experience running, it brought me back to my early days and how much I enjoyed the little feats and ‘bests’ that training for something you’ve never done before gives you. It was a very reflective experience for me. I’m glad he was there with me and that he had a great race and finished the marathon feeling great!
Just like achieving the goal of losing the weight. It was a collection of small successes, that got me to where I needed to be with my running.
I ran Marine Corps Marathon in a time of 4:11. This was 9 minutes better than my goal. My previous Marine Corps Marathon time was 4:54 in 2010. It felt great to run at a 9:28 per mile pace. I struggled a little towards the end of the race, but all in all, in my mind I won.
I had done it! I achieved my two main goals while learning much about myself. Recharged and rejuvenated with life, I continued the successful behaviors I adapted to over the past five months past the marathon. Yes, I still counted calories and was sticking to my 1850 per day limit, but I began to transition in my nutrition intentions in a similar way I did in my run training back in June: moving from looking at the quantity of food through calorie to understanding the quality of different types of food and ways to eat. I had once again evolved.
I think that was what was missing for me for so many years. My body was trying to evolve, and I never had enough faith in myself to take the risk and know that however I turned out, everything would be ok. I never allowed my body and mind to adapt.
My running evolved too. I wanted to start getting faster. So I needed to change up my runs. RIght? Nothing changes, if nothing changes!
If I could go from nearly an 11:10 minute mile to under 9:30 per mile for the marathon in 2 years, I could certainly get even faster. And I did. I began just running faster right after the marathon in 2012. Heading out for 8:00 minute per mile pace runs immediately. It was hard and uncomfortable adn my runs were short at about 3 miles to start, but the feeling improved quickly. Again, I adapted! (See a theme, yet?) I was motivated! I pushed my speed sessions to dial-in paces that built aerobic capacity at fatigue so my easy paces would get faster and my faster paces would get easier. It hurt, and took patience. But it worked.
I was no longer like a rock sinking in the lake that Sunday back in May. No more, like a rock!
I completed the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon (…again with my brother, Neil) in 3:52. This was a 19-minute improvement over the previous year, with an increase in pace of nearly 45 seconds per mile. I've since run a 3:43 marathon, in training. Not too bad! Oh, and at a weight of about 175 pounds! That's about where I've stayed with my weight to this day.
Now, I am at a good place with my running. On my schedule for this year are primarily local races. I did a local 10-miler, and two half-marathons (one trail and one road)…all PRs. I did my annual Memorial Day lake swim – and this was extra-cool since my wife, Deb jumped in to do the 1-mile race this year, in addition to the 1-mile practice swim she usually does (...she killed it!). Coming up I have my first RAGNAR event in West Virginia in June, with a 50K, Marine Corps Marathon, and the Richmond Marathon lined up for fall. There are some other events ‘penciled’ in on my calendar that may come to fruition. We'll see.
This is not the end.
There's much more to share, so come back in two days to read about how I took my nutrition to the next-level and built the ground work for the next two years.
Thanks for reading!
Life is art.
It really is.
I grew up - or at least spent my most of my formative years (6 - 15 years old) - around artists, musicians, surfers, and hippies in Santa Cruz, California. This small and unique coastal town has a personality in in it's landscape, built and natural, that just epitomizes what we all think of art to be. From sweeping coastal bluffs that border the cold Pacific Ocean by either rocky cliffs or sandy beaches to the deep redwood forests that blanket the majestic coastal mountains, Santa Cruz provides the picture-perfect atmosphere that breeds creativity and encourages self-expression. I miss it.
Art was a big part of my family culture, and beyond.
What does that mean? Well, the first house we lived in after spending the Summer of 1977 driving a Volkswagen pop-top camper out from New York and spending a few nights in Big Sur, was tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Vine Hill Road. It was large property partially paid for through a barter between the my step-father and the homeowner around some painting and other odd-job craft work. The property was spectacular. It was at least 5+ acres that included a large meadow, a pond, large garden, a swift running stream and waterfall, a redwood grove, a long driveway up to a circular entrance way that separated the TWO homes (one main house and a small cottage) from the large garage that served as, you guessed it, an artist's studio. I believe the property is (...or at one time was) a bed-and-breakfast. Nice!
Oh, and the name of the 6-room school I went to was Happy Valley Elementary and the Doobie Brothers 'hung out', if you know what I mean, at the band's mutually owned home across the street. Need I say more??
While living there with my mom, step-father, and eventually my brother after he made a stormy entrance into the world, we had many friends and family living in and on different parts of the property at different times. I think we even had people living in their vans parked on the large driveway! It was somewhat of a commune of artists, musicians, and other nomadic family members. Pretty cool, now that I really tap back in to those memories.
When not exploring the mountains around Vine Hill Road, I was nosing around the art studio or I was off to one of many art shows and art galleries all over the West Coast. I can still smell the stiff odor of oil paint and the somewhat transparent odor of watercolors my uncle and step-father mostly used to create their masterpieces. And that they were - masterpieces!
When we moved from the mountains, we went to a nice little home one block from the beach in Aptos. An even smaller town nestled on a cliff about 200 feet about the Monterey Bay. Yes, here too there was an art studio and our lives continued to revolve around an artist's way of life. And it continued well into my teenage years.
It wasn't just about material art.
Surfing was also a part of the culture in Santa Cruz. Actually, it was the culture in Santa Cruz. I mean the Beach Boys even mention it in the song "Surfin' USA"! Check out the feature film "Chasing Mavericks", and you'll get what I'm talking about.
I loved to surf - it is for sure the sport of my childhood. This was my first connection I made to art as being the artist and how it made me feel. I hear artists say that when they are in their studios, or writing music, or drafting chapters of a novel they feel free and a nearly euphoric. For me, I got the same feeling when I felt the pull of a wave under my longboard at 'Cowell's' or when I was covered by 8-foot shore break barrel on a bodyboard at 'It's Beach'. Heck, sometimes I didn't even use a board, and just used my body. I'd do anything to get that feeling of being on a wave - and still would today! I miss that, too.
It was during this time that I really fell in love with art. All forms.
In college, I even took an art class in school. Of course, my uncle taught the class - that made it more fun. He's a great guy. The class was art appreciation. I learned that art, for me anyways, is really looking at life through the eyes of another person - the artist. It's somewhat like living the artist's experiences. This was a great way to pull together all of my experience in seeing art develop from "idea to canvas" and the history of art throughout the World.
It's true, I found. A picture sure is worth a thousand words.
Here's what else I learned: Art is everywhere! Art is defined by the individual; which means you define what is art to you. Art is also what you give to others. Art is what you give yourself. Art is our own, unique display to the world our experiences. Enjoy art!
Art moves me and can influence my mood.
Over the past year or more, I've gone through an evolution that has forced me to re-evaluate much about myself. From my own health and fitness, to my career and family - it's been a good experience to assess and re-assess how I offer and share myself with others, but most importantly myself. This evolution has not come without it's discomfort and uncertainty. But what changes do? Out of this I've come to realize that I have my own version of art that is my self-expression that came from a life full of diverse experiences, including my younger years exposed to so much material and action-able art.
It has been a fantastic experience, this evolution!
Everyday I'm now acknowledging my own art, in all it's forms. It may be a run, just being a Dad or husband, a coach on the ice with a bunch of great kids or with a client looking to discover themselves, helping a customer in my 'day job'...anything really. Even in social media. It's all my version of art.
Now time to get practical: Acknowledging this has allowed me to really isolate each aspect of my life. I often refer to this as buckets: I have a fitness bucket, a health bucket, a family/relationship bucket (...with lot's of little buckets in there!), a career bucket, and so on, and on. This helps me think about how full each bucket is and the QUALITY of the contents. I then adjust, act, and re-act accordingly. That's it.
So, what's with all this art talk and what does it do for me? It gives me permission to be authentic.
Authentic to myself because being authentic allows me to accept the 'things', people, emotions, and experiences at their greatest worth - and that means a lot to me. There is no hidden agenda anymore. Life becomes real and that makes me look forward to this journey.
This writing is part of this journey powered by my authenticity. What else is to come?
I'm going to just let it happen.
Stall. Start. Stall. Start. That’s really what it’s been about for me.
I have momentum. We all have momentum. Things are moving in the right direction. Life is good. Not perfect by many standards. What I've realized is that this has been 40+ years in the making for me. And it’s been awesome!
Let me tell you why.
I look back at my experiences and have good memories and bad memories. But never once have I looked back with regret at the actions or experiences that created those memories. You see that’s what creates our perception, our reality. That’s the way it’s supposed to be!
Why do I sometimes have such a hard time with that?
Why do we make attempts to control our experiences so intensely? What’s wrong with having nothing to do, or doing something different? Why must we be “keeping up with the Jones”? (…Who were the Jones and why who made them the standard, anyway? ) Why is there so much second-guessing and ‘Monday morning quarterbacking”? Why must we know what everyone else is doing before we make our own decision? This is uncomfortable to me.
Anyway, by the Jones standard, I’d be an outcast. And in some circles I am.
But I’d never wish to have had it any other way. It’s always been that way for me. That’s OK.
A traditional, married couple did not bring me into this world – a mom and dad that lived together in happy matrimony did not raise me. I do believe they had true love for each other. I do not have a childhood home. I have many of them. I did not have a thriving academic experience nor a rewarding athletic career at any level in school. I did not move into a prestigious 4-year university. I started at a community college and attended college classes like I belonged to a health club – it just made me feel good to be around people that had very diverse experiences and ways of life, but had the same goals. I moved through my young adulthood with some misses, but always landed on my feet.
That’s been the best part.
My experience in the world has been extraordinary. No doubt! But, it’s always been by my measures, not the measures of others. Yep, I've stalled and started again, many times. But every start has been better than the last start. Every stall has had different learning than the last stall. And on, and on, and on. ( – wait for it: …and on.)
I’m not done.
I’ve been a lucky man. I come from a large family tree, or more like a forest – full of personality, attitude, and perseverance. Some branches on the lower part of this tree are stronger than the higher branches, but that’s what makes it fun. Also, it’s this broad family tree that has brought so many wonderful people into my life that would never have come out of a traditional family upbringing. For this I consider myself very lucky, and to some degree, even privileged.
I’m so proud of where I’ve come from. Now I can pass that on.
I have the chance to really cultivate my own family tree. That’s what I’m doing.
I always knew that one day I’d have the opportunity to raise kids, live in a nice home, and enjoy quiet family life. I do have that – but it’s better than I ever thought it would be. The people close to me have been so generous and caring. It’s not perfect; it does have its starts and stalls. And knowing that, being with a partner that understands this about me and that makes it great. Because every start has been better than the last start. Every stall has had different learning than the last stall. What’s next?
No, we’re not the Jones – and that’s best part!
In my little family, we live an ordinary, rewarding life. No exotic trips. No nannies. No prestigious schools. No fancy dinners or wine clubs. No fancy SUVs. No scheduled spa days, necessary girls nights out, or required guy’s weekends away to maintain a connection to lives in the past. Just experiences that create more starts and more stops. Yet without these luxuries, we also get to enjoy low-pressure jobs and just “go with the flow”.
The true best part, I have an incredible wife and life-partner that together we have two healthy boys that go to a great school, play sports, and are growing to be confident young men. Simple.
We do what we love – each of us. And we’re happy. We decide where we fit in.
What’s next? Let me guess.
Wait, no. Let it happen.