Great Balls of Fire

Over the weekend, I went with my friend Joe down to San Mateo to check out some potential new digs for him. Afterwards, we went to a local Japanese restaurant for dinner.

Another friend had told us about this place because of a special item on the menu – takoyaki roulette! You get an order of six takoyaki (fried dough balls with octopus filling), except one of them is filled with hot sauce instead. I am a bit of a masochist so I was down for the challenge, and because of my usually terrible luck, Joe was also down. While we were there, I think about four orders were served, but we were the only group of two to play.

Our waitress set the plate down in between us, and it was arranged in a ring of five balls and one at the center. I resigned myself to my fiery fate and just took the one closest to me. I tried sniffing it a bit to see if there was anything that would give away the hot sauce, but I only smelled the sweet takoyaki sauce, and felt pretty safe.

Takoyaki Joe Takoyaki Dinh

The takoyaki was pretty good. The chef did not go crazy with the sauce(s)/mayo/bonito like some other places do. The dough was nicely fried – crispy on the outside, still soft on the inside. The tako (octopus) was a bit spare, but had a nice fresh snap. Round 1 was a success! Joe also passed, so we moved on to Round 2. This time, i picked the center ball. And passed again. Joe also got a normal ball, and we moved on to Round 3. At this point, Joe and I were both pretty surprised that I had not gotten the hot one yet. I think he actually was getting nervous.

Round 3 – Sudden Death. With 50/50 odds of losing, I just picked the ball closer to myself. Joe asked anxiously if I had won, to which I exuberantly replied, “No, you won!” You should see the emotions run through him… shock, depression, then confusion… “Wait, does that mean… ?” No, he got the lava ball on the very last pick. I could smell the hot sauce off his breath as soon as he bit into it. And then he promptly downed his beer, a new beer, and a couple of glasses of ice water.

Hot Sauce Dinh

Feeling a bit bad for Joe, as well as curious about the hotness of the takoyaki, I asked our waitress if I could get a single hot takoyaki, but she told me they could not do that. She did offer a small plate of just the hot sauce, though, so I took that and tried it. I would say it was comparable to the ghost pepper sauce from the wing challenge I did with my family in Minnesota a couple of years ago – it was a slow build to a tear-jerking top note which lasted about 10 minutes. I would like to think that I handled myself better than at the wing challenge. No milk was ordered, and there was less tearing.

We were able to have normal food after, and we discovered a fantastic new beer.


All in all, a good time was had by all. After we got ice cream to settle our stomachs, anyway. If I make this a regular thing, I should become immune to pepper spray. That’s how things work, right?



Batman vs. Food

Batlogo Sushi

For my friend Chris’s birthday, a group of our friends went to a local sushi restaurant and attempted the sushi challenge.

Bruce's Challenge

I mean, it’s a challenge from a guy named Bruce, so I have to try, right? After reading the description of the challenge, I felt pretty good walking into the restaurant. It took a while for Bruce to make six challenge plates for us. He actually did not have enough large plates and had to cut some of our rolls in half so we had two 9″ rolls instead of one 18″ monster. After all the plates came out, he also brought out a small digital kitchen timer for us to stare at while we ate, and it was time to go!

Sushi Friends

We all dug in, some people trying to fit whole slices into their mouth at a time (they were easily at least 3″ in diameter and 1/2″ thick each), while I split each slice into quarters and tried to make it more manageable. Around the 30 minute mark, Bruce came back to our table to check up on us. He told a bunch of my friends straight up that they were not going to make it and they might as well quit now. But he did say that Chris and I still had a good chance, and encouraged us to keep going!

Sadly, Chris and I could not carry the hopes of friends. We both ended up defeated as well.


As a consolation prize, though, we all did get some ice cream on the house. We were all just talking about how full we were, but there is always room for ice cream! And Chris got tempura ice cream because it was his birthday.

Ice Cream

As we were leaving, we all talked about why we failed. Obviously, the main problem was volume. The description read four pounds, but we all felt like it was more than four when we had to take our “before” pictures with our full rolls. TJ weighed his leftovers the next day (he conveniently stopped at the halfway point), and we found that our rolls were closer to six pounds each!

Testing the leftovers

And while you may be thinking that we were ahead for two extra pounds of food, let me tell you now, that extra weight was pure sushi rice. Bruce packed the rice in hard, it was brick-like fresh, and you do not want to know what it was like after sitting in the fridge overnight. Also, they ran out of sushi rice in the middle of making our challenge rolls, so new rice was made, and it had extra rice vinegar, making each bite just a bit harder to swallow.

Not that Batman would ever make excuses, though. We all plan on going back and beating that challenge!

3-D Maneuver Gear

If you have not seen/read Attack on Titan, you should check it out. It was the breakout anime series of 2013 and I would best describe it as medieval German knights using 3-D Maneuver Gear (dual waist grapnels) to fight Spider-man-style against Evangelion-ish giant baddies. Plus everyone gets hyped up on the opening theme song:

Back in September, I went with some friends to the Treetop Adventure Park at Granlibakken Resort at Lake Tahoe.

Flying Squirrels

After putting on our gear, which consisted of a a climbing helmet and a safety harness with two “lobster claw” attachment hooks, we were led to the training area.

After learning how to get around safely, the instructors set us loose, and my group ran over to the Biek Ride course first. It is so named because one obstacle is riding a bike across a tightrope between trees! I’ve including video of Linh running through the course for a better perspective of the various obstacles followed by a video of my run through it.

After that, we did the Windchimes course, where the highlight obstacle is a series of unconnected suspended logs that decrease in size, so it looks like you are running over the top of a windchime.

In order to catch up with my friends (I got caught behind small children on both Bike Ride and Windchimes), I skipped the second half of Windchimes, which had some more great obstacles like stepping through a series of gymnast rings.

The final course we did was Spiral, which is named after its overall layout. The highlight obstacle on this one was riding a cargo net suspended on a zip-line.

My batteries ran out just before the end of this last course, but after I climb up the metal ladder, I had to run across a zig-zag bridge and then zip-line down.

All in all, it was blast! The obstacles were fun but challenging (you can hear my heartbeat through the chest-mounted camera) and see me take a couple of breaks. It was definitely a full-body workout and I was sore all over the next day. I am looking forward to going back and doing better on these courses as well as tackling the one I missed, Twin Pines.

Just a Little More

You may have noticed that with my update to the Upcoming Events calendar, the GoRuck Challenge is now unscheduled.

I feel really bad about this because I originally bought my GR1 back in March 2012 and signed up for the GRC in June 2012. This was about the time I was first starting to increase my fitness (I started the blog in July 2012 after a few months of training to keep a better log), and I was blindingly optimistic about my projected progress.

June 2012 rolled around and I told myself I was not quite ready yet, and pushed back my GRC event to November 2012. Around the end of September, I convinced my friend Joe to sign up for the GRC with me. (I got him to give me his credit card while he was drunk at his birthday party.) He did not think he would be ready in time for the November 2012 one, so I pushed back to March 2013.

As the March 2013 event approached, neither of us felt ready, so we pushed again to the October 2013 event. It did not help that I had stopped working on cardio training to focus more on weightlifting at the beginning of the year. I believe this is where things stood when I took my blogging hiatus.

Some time in Q3 2013, the line-up of new GoRuck events came out, and Joe and I decided to reschedule again to the July 4th, 2014, event so that we could see fireworks as we were doing the challenge. I had already hurt my knee at that point, but I did not know how serious it was yet.

Now, I am afraid I will have to push my event back yet again because of my knee rehab schedule. I really should have just gone for it back in June 2012, but I got sucked into the cycle of “just a little more training” to make sure I would get through it.


Fear of failure ended up guaranteeing failure for me.

Arrow to the Knee

Worse Cartilage

Doctor: I’ve seen worse cartilage in knees.
Bruce Wayne: That’s good.
Doctor: No, that’s because there is NO cartilage in your knee, and not much of any use in your elbows or your shoulders. Between that and the scar tissue on your kidneys, the residual concussive damage to your brain tissue, and the general scarred-over quality of your body, I cannot recommend that you go heliskiing, Mr. Wayne.
Bruce Wayne: Right.

Last June, shortly after my previous post, I was texting as I was walking home and tripped as I was coming down some cement steps near my house. I recovered and planted my left foot firmly down, taking my entire bodyweight and momentum. My knee did not like that very much. I felt/heard a pop as if my knee briefly dislocated, and could not support any weight on my left leg, so I sat down for a few minutes. The pain slowly subsided and I managed to hobble home.

This was not the first time I hurt my knee, so I did the same thing I always did in the past – RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) until it goes away. The first time I hurt myself, it took about a month to get better. After that, I have had some minor aggravations that clear up within a few days, a week or so at most. That was not the case this time. I was still feeling unstable as well as having random jolts of pain every so often, so I decided to take advantage of my health insurance and finally get professional help.

I talked to my primary treating physician, who quickly gave me a referral to a sports medicine specialist. I had some X-rays taken before I saw him, only to be told the X-rays looked fine (except for hints of the beginning of arthritis) and I would need to get an MRI. The MRI, however, showed damage to the meniscus and a torn ACL. The sports medicine specialist put me a program of rehab exercises and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories for two weeks, which helped but did not fix the deeper issues, so I got a referral to a surgeon. The surgeon told me I should definitely get the meniscus fixed and it was my choice if I wanted ACL repair, but I figured if I was going to get cut, I might as well take care of everything. Because of existing travel plans, I did not have the surgery until December.

Which Knee?

I lost count of how many times the hospital staff asked me what procedure I was having done and which side it was going to be on, but I suppose all the double-checks was a good thing because everything went as predicted from the MRI. My lateral meniscus had actually folded up away from where it should have been laying and had to be removed but the medial meniscus was successfully repaired and my ACL was replaced with a cadaver tendon. They had to drill holes into my femur and tibia in order to set that last one up! Now I’m in the long process of recovery. On the bright side, I now have one more thing in common with Batman, specifically the Nolan version.

Knee Brace

Sadly, my brace does not allow me to kick through brick walls, but if all goes according to plan, my brace comes off at the end of the month and I can start training to kick walls with purely with my own power.

The Batman Game

Big Basin Start

On Sunday, I met up with some Fitocracy folks for the first time to go on a hike at Big Basin State Park in Santa Cruz. As you can see, we had a superhero theme!

I was a bit concerned. (Some of the other Fitocrats from this group mentioned that their friends and family are often concerned for them when they mention they are going to meet some internet friends in the woods, but that was not an issue for me.) It has been a while since I have done an extended hike, and I was mostly worried about making it through OK. Especially since the organizer had not personally done the hike before, he had only looked it up on a website. (And the website warns that it is a difficult hike with a lot of elevation change.) Also, I am generally weaker/less fit than the average Fitocrat. And there’s my allergies and just weak lungs to consider.

So I was not too happy to see this warning sign as we set out:

Big Basin Warning

Seeing as the other Fitocrats were unfazed, and unwilling to give up when I saw children and elderly on the same trail, and I decided to tough it out. I am glad I did, because even though it was a challenging hike for me, the scenery was great. There were multiple waterfalls, and here is the biggest one:

Big Basin Falls

The company was also a lot of fun, and definitely a group I would want to hang out with again.

By the way, you may have noticed my poses in the “start” and “falls” pictures. In high school and college, I would play “the Batman game” with my friends. If you can make eye contact with someone while you hold the Batman pose with your hands on your face, you get to punch them. However, you can negate it by blocking with the Penguin pose of a monocle. Do not ask me the reasoning behind it – I am fairly certainly my friends just wanted an excuse to hit each other, and the nerdy aspect was just to get more people to play. Feel free to test your skills against me next time we see each other in person!

(New) Cycle Four

Muscle Beach

It has been four weeks since my last progress update, so here’s some fresh numbers for you guys.

New Third Cycle

  • Bench Press: 165 lbs x 4 reps (180 lbs 1RM)
  • Deadlift: 275 lbs x 1 rep (275 lbs 1RM)
  • Overhead Press: 115 lbs x 2 reps (118 lbs 1RM)
  • Squat: 190 lbs x 4 reps (207 lbs 1RM)

New Fourth Cycle

  • Bench Press: 165 lbs x 5 rep (186 lbs 1RM, +3.3%)
  • Deadlift: 235 lbs x 12 reps (338 lbs 1RM, +22.9%)
  • Overhead Press: 115 lbs x 3 reps (122 lbs 1RM, +3.4%)
  • Squat: 190 lbs x 9 reps (240 lbs 1RM, +15.9%)

My deadlift and overhead press numbers are moving in the right direction again after a temporary setback last cycle. I checked my numbers against my bodyweight and found that I am relatively high for my leg lifts and low for my arm lifts, which is the opposite of my workout buddies and the general trend of weightlifting. (Not to mention the above picture of Batman…) What is the term for the opposite of a gorilla?

And here are the body measurements:

New Third Cycle

  • 185.5 lbs (Actual)
  • 188.0 lbs (Trend)
  • 23.2% BF
  • 14 3/4″ Arms
  • 38 1/2″ Waist
  • 40 3/8″ Hips
  • 23 3/4″ Legs

New Fourth Cycle

  • 187.9 lbs (Actual, +1.3%)
  • 184.0 lbs (Trend, -2.1%)
  • 21.7% BF (-6.5%)
  • 14 1/2″ Arms (-1.7%)
  • 40 3/8″ Waist (+5.6%)
  • 40 3/4″ Hips (+0.9%)
  • 23 1/4″ Legs (-2.1%)

I forgot to check my bodyfat percantage, but I will do that tonight and update the post. My dieting has been going surprisingly well once I figured out how to make it work within the confines of my temporary vegetarianism. Unfortunately, the end of my vegetarianism (and the end of my tee-totaling) coincided with my birthday, so there were some excesses. That is why my trend weight is down while my actual weight is up. Also, I am confused about why my arms and legs seem to be shrinking while my torso is expanding. I am hoping that it is again a sign of my diet being mostly successful, and I am losing fat from my extremities first, and that the gut is temporarily expanded from my binging. The bodyfat percentage numbers seem to support this theory.

Overall, I am very happy with my progression on the weightlifting. I always seem to flutter between wanting to lift heavier and lose fat, but default to lifting heavier just because that side of things is easier to quantify and track. I know it is possible to do both at the same time, but trying to do so means slower progress in both. I am thinking about switching to focusing more on cutting, so I can finally get down to my goal bodyfat percentage and then more easily manage bulking and cutting cycles. For the immediate future, my goal is get down to 160 lbs, or 10% bodyfat, by the end of the year. That’s a little over 10%, which is a lot, so help me stay on track, be sure to give me a lashing if you see me cheat myself.

Once again, here is the money shot. WARNING: Links to semi-clothed pictures to follow!

Me before and me after.