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!

Infinite Coastline

Time for my next Zero to Hero Blogger post! Today’s challenge:


Hey Batman, whatcha thinking about?

When I first started this blog, I definitely was focused on capturing my progress as I morphed into a superhuman athlete. I wanted to be able to show my readers amazing before and after pictures and wow you with my newly accomplished feats of strength. As my previous post shows you in a nutshell, reality has not been kind to my expectations. My injury was the final straw that got me to stop blogging entirely about this project.

The promise of a new year and more specifically my surgical recovery, I started blogging again, and this challenge has been a great way to jump back into things. Looking back, I realized my problem was one of scale. I wanted to do too much too quickly – to go from sedentary to hiking eight hours with a 30 pound ruck is difficult, but putting myself on a three-month timetable basically makes it impossible. Same goes for going from not working out to lifting like Batman or moving from an obese BMI to a normal one.


The impossible may take longer, but I will get there. I just can’t judge myself on all or nothing. I need appropriately to scale my expectations and take more pride in smaller wins. The journey of a thousand miles and all that. It is actually a reverse of the infinite coastline paradox, where (theoretical) cartographers run into trouble as their maps get more detailed because by using smaller and smaller units of length to show a coastline in more and more detail, they approach infinite length (and work). For me, I need to keep using smaller and smaller units because at larger units, my progress seems to be flatlining.

(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.

(New) Cycle Three

Bat Exercise

For about three months after Cycle Six, which concluded at the end of last September, I stopped working out as I focused on my new job. Not entirely, but I definitely lost consistency as I tried to find a good way to fit it back into my daily routine. Waking up earlier to go before work was tough, but I also had trouble getting myself back out of the house after I came home from work.

Around New Year’s, I said enough was enough and recruited two of my good friends to come with me and keep me accountable.  We all got the 24 Hour Fitness deal from Costco and started up a new cycle fo 5/3/1 by mid-January.  This week was the end of our third cycle as a group.

Sixth Cycle

  • Bench Press: 170 lbs x 3 reps (180 lbs 1RM)
  • Deadlift: 245 lbs x 3 reps (259 lbs 1RM)
  • Overhead Press: 110 lbs x 2 reps (113 lbs 1RM)
  • Squat: 200 lbs x 3 reps (212 lbs 1RM)

New Second Cycle

  • Bench Press: 170 lbs x 1 rep (170 lbs 1RM, -5.6%)
  • Deadlift: 255 lbs x 5 reps (287 lbs 1RM, +10.8%)
  • Overhead Press: 100 lbs x 8 reps (124 lbs 1RM, +9.7%)
  • Squat: 160 lbs x 8 reps (199 lbs 1RM, -6.1%)

New Third Cycle

  • Bench Press: 165 lbs x 4 reps (180 lbs 1RM, +5.9%)
  • Deadlift: 275 lbs x 1 rep (275 lbs 1RM, -4.2%)
  • Overhead Press: 115 lbs x 2 reps (118 lbs 1RM, -4.8%)
  • Squat: 190 lbs x 4 reps (207 lbs 1RM, +4.0%)

FIrst thing you may have noticed is that I dropped Pull-Ups from my routine.  Rather than try to apply 5/3/1 to it, I think I am just going to try to do bodyweight sets to failure.  Other than that, the three-month hiatus really took a toll on my numbers, and I’m slowly working back to where I was at.

And here are the body measurements:

Sixth Cycle

  • 173.5 lbs (Actual)
  • 173.0 lbs (Trend)
  • 14 3/8″ Arms
  • 37 5/8″ Waist
  • 39 1/4″ Hips
  • 22 5/8″ Legs

New Third Cycle

  • 185.5 lbs (Actual, +6.9%)
  • 23.2% BF
  • 14 3/4″ Arms (+2.6%)
  • 38 1/2″ Waist (+2.3%)
  • 40 3/8″ Hips (+2.9%)
  • 23 3/4″ Legs (+5.0%)

I have put on about 12 pounds since my last write-up and considering reset on the weightlifting, I am not sure how much of that gain was muscle and how much was fat.  I do feel like my muscles are getting… denser… but they are still buried under a lot of fat.  Also, you may have noticed that my trend weight is not listed for this cycle – I had been tracking my weight on my phone, which died, and I lost over two years of daily inputs, so now I have to start all over.  I also bought a scale that measures bodyfat through bioelectrical impedance analysis.  I know it is not very accurate, but it still seems like a better choice than performing caliper tests on myself (I can do it back-to-back and get completely different numbers), or just depending on eyeballed comparisons.

Overall, lifting with my friends has been working out well.  I have added accountability and motivation, not to mention having eyeballs to form check me on the spot.  My diet has been shaky, though.  I did a 30-day Paleo challenge with my friends during the last cycle, and that worked well. After my grandfather died, though, I’ve been on a 49-day vegetarian diet, and it has been difficult to make meals fit my macros.  Vegetarianism is definitely higher in carbs and lower in protein than what I am shooting for.  Luckily, I am lacto-ovo instead of full vegan, so at least I can overload on eggs and yogurt.

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

Me before and me after.

Cycle Six

I actually finished the sixth cycle of my training program last Sunday, but have not had the time to post until now.

Fifth Cycle

  • Deadlift: 250 lbs x 1 reps (250 lbs 1RM)
  • Squat: 200 lbs x 1 reps (200 lbs 1RM)
  • Bench Press: 165 lbs x 1 reps (165 lbs 1RM)
  • Overhead Press: 115 lbs x 1 reps (115 lbs 1RM)
  • Pull-Up: 164 lbs x 6 reps (190 lbs 1RM)

Sixth Cycle

  • Deadlift: 245 lbs x 3 reps (259 lbs 1RM, +3.6%)
  • Squat: 200 lbs x 3 reps (212 lbs 1RM, +6.0%)
  • Bench Press: 170 lbs x 3 reps (180 lbs 1RM, +9.1%)
  • Overhead Press: 110 lbs x 2 reps (113 lbs 1RM, -1.7%)
  • Pull-Up: 185 lbs x 2 reps (190 lbs 1RM, +0.0%)

I am really happy about the big gains in my Squat and Bench Press, but it was to be expected, since I had negative progress in those two lifts last cycle. Also, I realized that my Pull-Up progression is in a very odd place. I never would have expected it to be higher than my Overhead Press, let alone be higher than my Bench Press! But I have definitely hit a local limit, because my 1RM is exactly the same as where it was last cycle, I am just doing lower reps at higher weight. But for those of you who are not interested in weightlifting, here are some body numbers for you.

Fifth Cycle

  • 171.5 lbs (Actual)
  • 172.5 lbs (Trend)
  • 14″ Arms
  • 36 7/8″ Waist
  • 39 1/8″ Hips
  • 22 3/4″ Legs

Sixth Cycle

  • 173.5 lbs (Actual, +1.1%)
  • 173.0 lbs (Trend, +0.3%)
  • 14 3/8″ Arms (+2.7%)
  • 37 5/8″ Waist (+2.0%)
  • 39 1/4″ Hips (+0.3%)
  • 22 5/8″ Legs (-0.5%)

As always, the progress in this department is slow. My weight is still stuck in the 165-175 range, and my waist actually grew again this time. It might be partly because I am writing this post immediately after dinner, but I have a feeling there is more to it than just that. My other measurements are changing so slowly, I cannot even tell if I am recomposing in the right direction. Except for my arms – I never had enough fat there to hide my muscle development!

All in all, I did much better exercise-wise this cycle, but I really need to crack down on myself on the diet side. Like I said, I have not been eating as well this cycle, starting with the beach trip. Having my dad come to visit did not help, either. Traditional cooking does not fit my macros! If it is not one thing it is another. At least I am making progress somewhere.

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

My before and me after.

Cycle Five

I just finished up the fifth cycle of my training program, so it is time for another progress report.

Fourth Cycle

  • Deadlift: 225 lbs x 3 reps (238 lbs 1RM)
  • Squat: 180 lbs x 5 reps (203 lbs 1RM)
  • Bench Press: 165 lbs x 2 reps (170 lbs 1RM)
  • Overhead Press: 105 lbs x 3 reps (111 lbs 1RM)
  • Pull-Up: 119 lbs x 3 reps (126 lbs 1RM)

Fifth Cycle

  • Deadlift: 250 lbs x 1 reps (250 lbs 1RM, +5.0%)
  • Squat: 200 lbs x 1 reps (200 lbs 1RM, -1.5%)
  • Bench Press: 165 lbs x 1 reps (165 lbs 1RM, -2.9%)
  • Overhead Press: 115 lbs x 1 reps (115 lbs 1RM, +3.6%)
  • Pull-Up: 164 lbs x 6 reps (190 lbs 1RM, +50.8%)

Even though my calculated 1RM dropped in a couple of lifts, my actual 1RM rose for everything except Bench Press, where I failed on my heaviest set of the cycle. But for those of you who are not interested in weightlifting, here are some body numbers for you.

Fourth Cycle

  • 173.6 lbs (Actual)
  • 176.5 lbs (Trend)
  • 13 5/8″ Arms
  • 38 1/2″ Waist
  • 39″ Hips
  • 22 5/8″ Legs

Fifth Cycle

  • 171.5 lbs (Actual, -1.2%)
  • 172.5 lbs (Trend, -2.3%)
  • 14″ Arms (+2.8%)
  • 36 7/8″ Waist (-3.6%)
  • 39 1/8″ Hips (+0.3%)
  • 22 3/4″ Legs (+0.6%)

As before, the progress in this department is not as drastic as I hoped it would be by this point. My weight keeps hovering around the same mark, but at least my other measurements are moving in the right directions, so I know at least I am recomposing fat into muscle instead of flat-out failing.

I have to say, this cycle was pretty tough for me. The exertion headaches meant I stopped short many times when my muscles should have been able to keep going, so I did not get as much lifting done as I would have liked. Compounded with that, I let my diet slip several times at social events – no alcohol, but I did have soda and other unnecessary calories.

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

My before and me after.