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My Journey from the Atkins Diet to Plant Based Living

Posted by Mike Tang
Mike Tang
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on Monday, June 11, 2012
in Training

Mike and MegOver the next few weeks we will take you through the incredible transformation of Mike Tang. At the end of 2011 Mike weighed 240 lbs (5'8) and was in terrible physical condition. In just a few short months he has lost over 50 pounds and has just recently finished the Bassman Triathlon. The first entry in this series starts with why Mike decided to change his life and the first steps he took on his journey.

Mike is not a medical professional or nutritionist. Consult your doctor before starting a nutrition or exercise program. VTR does not promote this or any other diet/exercise plan. This story just describes one man and the steps on his journey that led to his incredible transformation since December 2011.


My Journey from the Atkins Diet to Plant Based Living (Part 1)

by Mike Tang

Last December my work put together a biggest loser competition for 2012. The contest was to begin on January 1, 2012 and run for 3 months. There would be a monthly weigh-in, and the winner would be the person who has lost the highest percentage of weight at the end of the three months. I decided after years of inactivity and abusing my body (with food) this was my time to change my life. There was no life changing medical condition, I didn't see a picture of Jesus in my French toast, I just decided enough was enough. My short term plan was to win the biggest loser competition at work and my long term plan was to live a healthier lifestyle and keep the weight off that I anticipated losing in the competition. As I started my journey I wanted to remind myself I am human. If at any point I felt I was not making the progress I wanted to, I had to remember my long term plan.

December 2011

I was eating and gaining weight, not sleeping well and stressed out.  It was easier to eat than to do anything and it made me feel better.  Ah, the irony of life.  Those things which comfort you the most are the most harmful, but more on that later.  Anyway, Thanksgiving through Christmas are always food bonanzas, tables full of food, gravy and desserts. I had gained a bunch of weight at the end of 2011, and I needed to take it off. The timing was great for the "biggest loser" competition at work. The last week before the weigh-in at work for the competition, I ate like crazy. Gotta gain to take it off, I thought.   239.5 lbs.

January 2012

Month 1 - Plan

Well, I weighed in and walked to lunch.  No better time to start than NOW.  This month my plan was simple.  I will start the Atkins Diet.  It worked in the past, and has been my weight loss plan of choice in the past.  Right around the time I turned 30, I lost about 60 pounds in 9 months, with a combination of the Atkins Diet and exercise.  This month I thought I would go “hardcore”.  For the month my plan was as follows:


  • Atkins Bar for Breakfast (start the day off right)
  • Chicken and fish only for meat (no beef, pork or sausage)
  • A salad every day for lunch with grilled chicken and NO dressing (why add all those calories?)
  • Cheese, eggs and mayo are OK
  • Dinner was Atkins friendly
  • Popcorn/nuts before I went to bed so I wouldn’t be hungry


  • Walk to lunch every day (40 minutes)
  • Pushups every hour, starting with 5 and hour and climbing to 15 an hour
  • Run on treadmill at night (at least 30 minutes)

Month 1 - Results

Everyone was constantly reinforcing that I was in first place, I had dropped some waist sizes and I was sure I had dropped a lot in the competition.  All this work was going to pay off, plus I was never hungry, I was eating a lot of nuts and Atkins friendly food, as much as I wanted really.  Then came the weigh-in.  233.5. Six pounds.  One month of all this and I was in like 10th place.  I told myself not to worry, winning was not why you were getting healthy.  Boy did it bother me though.  I think I need to schedule that double amputation.

Month 1 – Lessons learned

Ok, I was working out a lot, and I thought the limited weight loss may have to do with gaining muscle mass.  Also, Atkins is really not a good way to lose weight and eat, or maybe it is, just not quickly.I had no idea the path I was about to start down and how it would entirely change my life. I needed something even more drastic, something that would propel me back into contention. I googled "Extreme weight loss" and "Lose weight quickly", what came back were crazy starvation diets, nothing that seemed sustainable and/or healthy.  Then I saw something that caught my eye, a 10 day juice fast to reset your eating habits.  Sounds like a challenge, I will start there. I decided that for month two I would change things up and start juicing.I had no idea the path I was about to start down and how it would entirely change my life.

My next post will describe my 10 day juice fast and the results in month two of my journey. UPDATE: Read part 2 "The Juice Fast, Into the Belly of the Beast...

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Overcoming Open Water Swim Anxiety

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
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on Tuesday, May 29, 2012
in Training

All triathletes at one time or another have experienced open water swim anxiety. It is impossible to predict when it will happen. Sometimes it is the smallest thing that can trigger a panic attack. Earlier this month I had a "mini" panic attack in the water during the Bassman Triathlon. I started out swimming fine for the first few minutes but then my goggles completely filled with water, and I couldn't see a thing. My speed dropped and I started getting bumped in the water. I couldn't see, people were banging into me, and I started to gasp for breath. Just like that, a 20 year triathlon veteran was having a silly panic attack in the water. I was able to fight through the panic, calm down, and successfully complete the swim, but for several minutes I was in difficulty. (see Bassman blog post)

Why do we all panic at times in the water? Well...I think it is obvious. On the bike you can stop if you are tired, on the run you can walk or stop. In the water if you can't make it, you need to be rescued or you will drown. It's that simple. All triathletes know this and most take the necessary precautions to stay safe while training in open water. How do you stay safe and minimize the chance of having a panic attack in a race? Practice..Practice..Practice...Just like everything else. If you only swim in open water during a race and you only race 5 or 6 times a year do you really expect to be comfortable in the water? Once the water warms up in April/May as a triathlete it is time to start training in open water. A few years ago I started swimming 1-2 times a week in open water. In a short amount of time I started to feel more and more comfortable in the water. You learn how to navigate, deal with choppy conditions, pacing, etc. All of those things cannot be learned in the pool. Not to mention you get more comfortable swimming in your wetsuit.

In order to be safe I use a swim buoy . I have it attached to my ankle, and it floats behind me while I swim. It pulls on your leg a little bit but before long you don't even notice it. Any issues in the water and I have a safety buoy of my own to lean on. That is the only way to go. Anything can happen in the water, and you want to stay safe while training. I highly encourage anyone who struggles with anxiety in the water to join a group (never swim alone), get a swim buoy, and start training in open water. Before long you will notice a big difference in how you feel in the water, and your swim confidence will increase dramatically.

Start practicing in open water and maybe next time this won't be that intimidating....


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Are runners obsessed ?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
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on Thursday, May 24, 2012
in Road Races

As a runner/triathlete I have a lot of time to think during my long training sessions. I have been thinking a lot lately about the drive most dedicated athletes have for training. Many runners, regardless of ability, are following some type of training plan. This training plan becomes a voice in our heads that refuses to let us relax. You are constantly thinking about the next few workouts and how you plan on including them into your life. There is never an option to skip a workout...typically that is not even discussed. If you are sick or having a real bad day you may shorten a workout but missing one is only reserved for 1-2 times a year life events that prevent you from working out. You will wake up at 3 AM to get a workout in before an early morning flight. You will workout in rain/snow/wind/heat/cold etc. Weather is not an issue. Many times I have seen noticeably sick athletes show up for a race. It begs the question...Why?

I am currently competing in the Good Times 5k Series which is held on 10 consecutive Tuesday nights. In this series points are cumulative for overall prizes at the end of the 10 weeks. This means that if you miss a week you are probably out of the running. What does this make people do? People show up sick, tired, cancel appointments, etc. There have been many examples of people competing the day after running the Boston Marathon or other Marathon events. Your VTR host even ran 2 days after doing the Bassman Half Ironman. Are we not reasonable people? Do we have no "common sense" filter in regards to running? What drives us to keep going at this frenetic rate? Are we obsessed? If we are obsessed what are we obsessed with? Running a certain amount of times a week? Running a certain mileage number no matter what?

My opinion is most people who train seriously as a runner or triathlete are very committed people. This means once we lock onto something we don't stop until we've completed it, no matter what. The drive to continue is very strong and is not easily deterred. This is a great asset to have when you have miles to go in a marathon and you feel terrible.  It helps you finish the race. Unfortunately, most of us can't shut this off in day-to-day life. It is a part of us. That is why we will run a 5k on Tuesday night when we ran a marathon the day before.  At a later date we may agree what we did wasn't the smartest thing to do but soon enough we are in a similar situation, and we do the same thing over again. It is part of us...we can't stop. (oh...I think I just answered my question...I  guess we are obsessed.)

The photo below is me getting an IV after refusing to quit and successfully completing the Timberman Half Ironman in 2009...Nothing wrong with hitting the medical tent after an event, right?

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Why can't you be a normal person?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
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on Thursday, May 10, 2012
in Training

If you have trained for a big event at some point someone has asked "Why do you do this?" Don't you wish you were a normal person that didn't have to train everyday? Why do you inflict self-induced torture upon your body by swimming in 60 degree water, running in cold/snow/rain, cycling in 90 degree heat...etc. I have asked myself this question many times. Many times I have asked myself this question while I was in the middle of a "self inflicted torture" session.

In 2001 I had completed a little over 100 races in my career (see Race History) and reached a point where I was sick of all the early morning workouts and long training sessions. All I wanted to do was to be a "normal" person. I had been training for something my entire life and just wanted to eliminate the pressure and daily grind of training and racing. I dreamed that "normal" people live pressure free lives and do not have all of the self-induced pressures to continuously train for events. Finally I said, "That's it. I quit. I am now retired." I stopped working out and started living my life as a normal person. Over the course of the next few months my weight climbed from my training weight of 175 to a high of 199. I had a chocolate chip muffin and a regular coffee every morning on the way to work and couldn't care less about what races were going on next weekend.

As the months progressed I would occasionally take in the smell and freshness of a beautiful morning and remember how awesome it was to run in the early spring. A couple of times I drove by a lake or saw a group of cyclists and thought about how fun training and racing for a triathlon can be. As the summer came and went these thoughts started to become more frequent. As the 2001 fall racing season began I really started to miss training and racing. I finally figured out that being a normal person wasn't all that great. I really missed the excitement and challenge of competing in triathlons/road races which was a big part of my "normal" life. I missed the way my body felt when I was in great shape. I missed everything about my old life. I found out that being "normal" is different for everyone.

In November I decided to get back into racing. I was 25 pounds over weight and hadn't worked out in 10 months. After a few weeks of running, on Thanksgiving Day 2001, I entered the Turkey Trot at Maudslay State Park in Newburyport Massachusetts. This is a 5k race on hard pack trails in the park. This race turned into a real eye opener as I really struggled during the race and almost had to walk at the end. I completed the race in 24:06. This was by far the slowest 5k race I have ever run and to this day is the slowest recorded 5k time by your VTR host. I worked hard over the winter and ended up competing in 24 events in 2002. I would like to say my form came back quickly but it didn't. I truly did not regain my form for several years. Now when I am extremely sore after a tough race and someone asks me if I wished I was a normal person and didn't have to put myself through all of the effort and pain to compete my answer is simple....What do you mean?..I am a normal person.

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Bombed at Bassman Half Triathlon!

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
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on Tuesday, May 08, 2012
in Triathlons

Last weekend I drove down to Atlantic City, New Jersey and competed in the Bassman Half Distance Triathlon. It was a well organized event in a great venue.  However, I wasn't thrilled with my performance. It was one of those days when I kept thinking, "Why am I so uncomfortable"? Racing is often "uncomfortable", but usually in a long event you hope to settle into a steady pace as the hours tick by.  That was not the case on Sunday for me. Unfortunately my "veteran status" did not make me immune from having a bad day.

Bassman Bike Transition

The Bassman Half distance triathlon is a 1.2 mile swim, 58 mile bike, and a 13.2 mile run. The race is located in the Bass River State Forest in Tuckerton New Jersey. Tuckerton is about 30 minutes north of Atlantic City. The course is just slightly longer than the typical half distances. As I setup the transition area prior to the event I felt calm and prepared. I really had no prior warning that this was not going to be my day.

The swim was an "in water" start and I felt fine in the calm clear 65 degree waters of Lake Absegami. As the swim started I felt great for about 5 minutes. Then the problems began. My goggles started leaking and completely filled with water. Now being a veteran triathlete I calmly sat up in the water and re-adjusted them. This continued for several minutes. I just could not get my goggles set. Then maybe due to the stress of the situation I started to get some "in water" anxiety and completely lost my stroke. My eyes were stinging, I was blind in the water, and I started to slightly panic. I finally relaxed and tried to salvage some kind of stroke. I then noticed that the person swimming next to me was standing. I put my feet down and then realized I was swimming in about 3 feet of water! I immediately stood up and spent about a minute trying to fix my goggles. I was finally able to get them fixed and then continued on with the swim. As I progressed there were about 3 short sections of the swim where it became very shallow and many people stood up and ran 5-10 steps before the water got deeper. The second half of my swim was much better but I was still about 5 minutes off my usual time for this distance. The whole second half of the swim I just couldn't believe what had happened.

Crossing the finish lineThe bike course was flat and fast. I was flat and not fast. Basically I had a very uninspiring performance on the bike. To make matters worst I had two mechanical issues that set me back about 6 minutes. I just could not get comfortable during this entire event. The bike course was two 29 mile loops. I started out feeling decent but that feeling quickly faded. I just had a flat performance. I finally got off the bike hoping that I could turn my day around with a great run. The run is my best event and I was hoping that due to my great conditioning I could at least end my race on a positive note. I started off great, keeping the first 6 miles under 8 minute pace. Somewhere around mile 8 I suddenly started to lose my form and started feeling bad. By mile 10 the wheels had come off and my pace had dropped by 2 minutes a mile. I did not allow myself to walk, but for the last 5k I would not describe what I was doing as "running". I finally finished and left the race wondering "What just happened" ?

The bottom line is that I am competing in an Ironman on July 28th and I just bombed a Half Ironman on May 6th. Not the best scenario. Over the next few days I will be analyzing what happened and make adjustments as needed. I am not going to let one poor performance take away all of the good training I have done over the past few months. This poor result does bring up one question. Should I compete in the Mooseman Half Ironman on June 3rd to attempt to get a better performance or should I just continue training and focus on the Ironman? Would it mean anything if I did well in a race that is only half the distance?  Now that you've heard my experience which option below do you think I should choose? (comment below to help me decide!)

(***Note*** I ended up training as scheduled and forgot about this performance***)

1) Continue training as scheduled and don't worry about bombing the Bassman!

2) Sign up for Mooseman Half Triathlon today and kick butt on June 3rd!

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My First Triathlon

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
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on Sunday, April 29, 2012
in Triathlons

One of my favorite times of the year is when I sit in front of the computer and look through different race websites to plan out my early season schedule. One race that has always caught my eye is the Marlboro Lions Spring Sprint Triathlon. I have a special feeling for this race as this event was my first triathlon.

I remember way back (further back than I would like) in 1990 a nervous 17 year old arrived at the Marlboro Lions Spring Sprint Triathlon. My parents who had no idea what I was signed up for, came with me for support. The sport of triathlon was not as popular as it is today and keep in mind there was no such thing as or the ability to simply go on a computer/phone and check what races were scheduled. There were no elevation charts, satellite views, race course videos, websites, etc. Basically you would send away for a race application, fill out the form, and mail it in. When I showed up on race day morning I had no idea what the course was like.

To be honest my memories of my first triathlon are very limited. I survived the pool swim and took off on the bike. Somehow on the last few miles of the course I ended up taking a wrong turn with about 3 other people. (Did I mention I didn’t have I ended up riding an extra couple of miles before I got back on course. After completing the run we waited around for the results, and I was shocked to see I was second place in my age group despite adding on several miles to the bike course. I ended up getting a nice trophy (see picture) and was immediately hooked on triathlons. I only ended up completing a couple more triathlons that year but I returned to Marlboro in 1991 and won my age group. I have now completed this race 8 times over the years. Although I don’t enter this race every year, I always think back to my first race in Marlboro as the triathlon season begins.

Marlboro Lions Spring Sprint Triathlon

Here’s some VTR information on the course (you can also visit the official Lions Spring Sprint Triathlon website.) The pool swim is 250 yards. The swim is at the Wayside Racquet and Swim Club at 80 Broadmeadow Road in Marlboro, Massachusetts. The bike course is hilly and will definitely test your legs. The 3.2 run course is challenging. It features a couple of tough hills and one extreme downhill. Check out the course and maybe this could be your first triathlon.

Tell us about your first triathlon experience in the comment section below...

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