Thursday, May 27, 2010

BLOOMINGTON -- Triathlete Mike Bernico isn't sure how much he weighed at his peak two years ago. His scale didn't go higher than 380, and the needle was pinned.

"I was almost 400," guessed the technical analyst at State Farm Insurance Cos.

He stood 5 feet, 10 inches tall and his waist was 50 inches around. Today, Bernico, 32, weighs 178 pounds as he prepares for the upcoming Tri Sharks Classic Triathlon at Comlara Park near Hudson on June 5. His body fat measures just 8.1 percent. His waist is 32 inches.

Bernico made small lifestyle changes at first.

"Like not having an entire pizza for dinner," he said with a smile.

Better menus and portion control came next. At 330 pounds, he started strength training. He bought a recumbent bicycle trainer and started to spin his legs. His knee withstood the challenge. After a time, he bought a road bike and rode outside. By the end of 2008, he could go up to 60 miles at a time.

That's when someone urged him to complete a triathlon, where participants are timed as they swim, bike and run. One of the fastest growing sports in America, participation grew by nearly 70 percent to nearly 1.1 million from 2006-2008, according to the Outdoor Foundation. USA Triathlon, the sports governing organization, had 53,000 members in 2004. That number is more than twice that today.

Approached with the idea of being a triathlete, Bernico's response was, "No way."

But he found a couch-to-5K (3.1 mile) training course that gradually ramps up running time and distance. He practiced swimming. He did a short triathlon in Sullivan in April 2009.

Last June, he found himself on the shore of Evergreen Lake at Comlara Park with other triathletes ready to hit the water at the start of the Tri-Sharks Classic Triathlon, a sprint-distance race named after Bloomington's triathlon club. Athletes swim 600 yards, bike 12.5 miles and run 3.1 miles.

McLean County is becoming a hub of triathlon and endurance sports in Illinois and the Midwest. The field of 600 fills up in a matter of minutes when registration opens several months before the event, said race director Colleen Klein. Bernico will be joined by his fiancée, Lana Fryer, 27, a Bloomington pharmacist, who will compete in her first triathlon.

Mike Mikel of Bloomington also will do his first sprint triathlon. Mikel started bike riding and later added swimming and running to get back in shape before he turned 40. He signed up for the triathlon when he realized he was doing all three sports during workouts.

"This (competing in triathlons) gives me another goal," said Mikel, who also is using triathlons as a way to raise money for The Children's Foundation of Children's Home + Aid, where he is a board member. (See the outdoor column on F-1.) The Children's Foundation will be title charity sponsor for the Tri Sharks Classic in 2011.

As for Bernico, he plans to do an Olympic-distance race at the Evergreen International Triathlon July 17 at Comlara Park, where he placed fifth in his age group last year. Distances are doubled to 1,200 yards in the water, 25 miles on a bike and a 6.2 mile run. He also will compete at Steelhead, a half Ironman in Bentown Harbor, Mich., at the end of July.

In 2011, he plans to complete an Ironman triathlon, which many consider the most grueling athletic test of all. The race tests the limits of physical endurance with a swim of 2.4 miles, a bike competition of 112 miles and a marathon distance run of 26.2 miles. Competitors must complete the entire 140.6 miles in 17 hours. Bernico, who blogs at, weighs and logs everything he eats now. Those small healthy changes have led to a diet without processed foods.

"I'm very careful," he said.

Still, he exercises so much now he still loses weight even though he's eating a normal 3,000 calories a day. The irony amuses him.

"I'll just have to eat more," he said, with a laugh.

Perhaps more important than the weight loss is the attitude change that has accompanied his transition, he said. He's gone through tough times with a more positive outlook.

"It's changed everything in my life," Bernico said. "It's brought a different perspective into things. I've learned about nutrition, staying active and healthy, but I've learned no matter how bad things get, no matter what happens, I can suffer through it. After you do a triathlon, there is nothing you can't do. It's the triathlete mindset."


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seriously…The Hollywood Cookie Diet!

I am not even sure what to say about this. The plan basically has you replace breakfast, snack and lunch with a cookie. For dinner you should be eating a sensible meal and viola! The pounds will just melt away!

The diet should work assuming you keep your dinner sensible by reducing the total caloric intake for the day. 3 cookies per day amounts to 450 calories and that along with my definition of a sensible meal of 600 calories should keep you right around 1050 calories. For most people that should be restricted enough to have some success.

Perhaps it sour grapes since I did not think of wrapping a cookie in a pretty package and stamping “Hollywood” and “Diet” on the label. We all see the tabloids and photos of the super stars living in sunny Hollywood and who doesn’t want to look like that. However, this has to be the most absurd thing I have heard of in a while. The amazing thing is that people are actually buying them!

How about this…

I will agree to supply you with a package of Chip’s Ahoy cookies, about the same nutritionally, for the low price of 9.99. In fact if you act now I will even break out a Sharpie and write “diet” on it. The great thing about Chip’s Ahoy is that you can actually have 3 for each meal replacement or a total of 9 cookies per day!

If you’re interesting just shoot me an email and I will provide you with my Paypal info so we can arrange for payment.

Chips Ahoy!
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3 Cookies (32g)
Ingredients Amount Per Serving
Calories 160
Total Fat 8g
Saturated Fat 2.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 105mg
Total Carbohydrates 21g
Dietary Fiber 1g
Sugars 10g
Protein 2g

Hollywood Chocolate Chip
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 Cookie (40g)
Ingredients Amount Per Serving
Calories 150
Total Fat 4.5g
Saturated Fat 2g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 140mg
Total Carbohydrates 23g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 8g
Protein 5g

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ironmanlife: What It's Really All About

After 15 tries, Jeff Rhodes thought this was going to be his day - the day he would qualify for the Ford Ironman World Championship. He was racing with all the top men in his 40-44 age group in St. George, Utah last Saturday, feeling on top of the world. Two miles to go on the bike, though, things went horribly awry when he rolled a tire going around a corner.

Rhodes hit a brick wall and flew over his handlebars. No sooner had he hit the ground than he tried to get back on his bike. He saw the tire was off. Ever tried to get a tubular back on a rim? Ever tried to do that with one hand, because your other arm won’t work? Rhodes deflated the tire, put it back on the rim, re-inflated it with a quick-fill, then realized that his shoulder was up by his ear. He popped his shoulder back in place and tried to get back on his bike again. This time he realized his chain was off, too.

When he finally was able to get back on his bike, Rhodes managed the last two miles of the ride by holding his shoulder – it wasn’t just dislocated, he’d broken his collarbone, too.

When he managed to get some medical attention in T2, he was assured that he had broken his collarbone and should get into an ambulance for some medical attention.

“I told them I could still qualify for Kona,” Rhodes said in an interview today. “I got them to help me change my shoes.”

It only took three steps before Rhodes realized that there was no Kona qualifying for him last Saturday. Rather than quit, though, he was determined that he would finish the race, and started walking.

“It never even crossed my mind – I was going to get through it,” he said. “This was my 16th Ironman and I’ve never DNF’d. Last year in Japan I had an asthma attack during the swim. I had to pull myself along from buoy to buoy. It was the closest I’ve ever come to death. I knew I could get through the run with some shoulder pain.”

So he started walking. Meanwhile, just behind him, Quinton Berry, one of the five men from Orange County who had been training together for Ford Ironman St. George, started the marathon. Like Rhodes, Berry was having an incredible day – he was also in the hunt for a Kona spot. Berry ran up to his friend and stopped to walk with him.

“You’re having a great race,” Rhodes said. “You keep running. I’ll be fine.”

Berry made it a few feet up the road and turned around.

“At some point you’re going to need some help,” he told his friend. “If you’re going to walk it, I’m going to walk it with you.”

A short while later, another of the group, Scott Callendar, came across his two training buddies. He started walking, too. He and Berry took turns finding ice packs for their friend. They got his food at aid stations. They tracked down ibuprofen from the medical crew. The re-strapped his shoulder.

The three came across the line together. It was their slowest Ironman. It was also the best.

“This was the best Ironman I’ve ever done,” Berry wrote in an e-mail to Rhodes.

“It’s what you do for a friend,” he told me. “It was pretty impressive to see the support he had out there. There were some pros out there who said they were inspired by him.”

Pros? These three inspired an entire community. You want friendship? You want perseverance? You want grit and determination?

They showed it at Ford Ironman St. George last Saturday. It might not have been the fastest Ironman, but it will go down in history as one of the most inspiring and impressive of Ironman achievements.

Rhodes is registered to race at Subaru Ironman Canada later this summer.

“I know that I’m going to qualify there,” he said. “Those bumps in the road, you learn a lot from them.”

I think we can all learn a lot from Jeff Rhodes, Quinton Berry and Scott Callendar.