Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

Who doesn't love a snow day ? You get up and the weather hands you an invitation to trade what you do for what you want to do -if those two things are really different.

True, a snow day starts for me at 6 AM, when I get the call that there is a closing (or delay, which is what we started with today). Then it takes me about 15 minutes to get the word out, starting with the text message and ending with Twitter. But then I can relax- go back to bed for another fifteen or twenty minutes and then get up and eat or workout.

I'd been itching to do Time Trialapalooza for a week now. The workout is a little over one hour and twenty minutes, and every time I'd thought I was going to get 80 minutes together to do it, my free time turned into 60 minutes.

Today though, I was able to get up, do my job, check the day care closings (Ian's was) make some coffee and eat some grapefruit, and then have most of the workout done before anyone else in the house had even gotten up.

The great thing about getting this opportunity was realizing why I'd been itching to do this workout. I'd only done it once or twice before and didn't really remember what it was like at all. Time trial efforts really are important- if there is one thing that we triathletes are prone to it's blowing up during races because we go out to hard, and the whole point of this particular DVD is to cook yourself until you are well-done, without getting burnt. You start with 20 minutes at 85%, then 15 minutes at 90%, then 10 minutes at 92.5% and 5 minutes at 95%- reminding you how you have to get stronger as the race goes on.

I felt like I nailed the workout today- I was tired, but I felt really good about how I'd actually paced myself. Instead of being worn-out, was a recharged, especially after a very hard week at work.

Yes- everyone loves a snow day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Advice We Carelessly Give

When you spend most of the working day on line and use social media tools like Twitter, IM, and so on, you catch a lot of chatter and tend to respond to it in line- that is, you see it and react to it all in one stroke.

I saw someone today post 'I'm thinking of skipping my workout' and I posted back 'Don't skip your workout.' I was trying to be encouraging, but it was probably the wrong response.

I was probably mostly coming off a very hectic day yesterday that saw me not even trying to get my workout started until 8:30 last night and finally giving up after a combination of my son wanting to play one of the games he'd just opened (birthday present) and trying to finish doing some work on my wife's Mac. It was the first day I'd missed this year.

A better response would have been 'Why are you thinking of skipping today ?' Turns out the person runs four days or more a week and just needed the down time.

It's funny how our own perceptions and experiences colour the advice we give- and let's face it, I'm not the guy you should necessarily be taking advice from. That's what coaches are for. Just last week I was telling someone that if their body was saying to take a day off, then that might be the best thing. After a day off myself, chastising myself for not trying hard enough to get my workout in, it was hard to think the same way. Then again, it was my son's birthday.

But it's true. Sometimes our bodies need a day off. Sometimes we need a mental health day. Sometimes, the chores are out of hand. And truth be told, sometimes when we think we need a day off, we don't.

Sometimes, we should just spend the day with the family and forget the workouts...

Figuring out which one is the truth is hard. Figuring out what's best for someone else, again, is what coaches are for.

All I know is this. on Monday, I did an extremely hard spin focused on hill work. Brutal. After a day off, I did another hard spinervals focused on hill work. I felt fresh, and I had the best back-to back workouts in a long time.

Even if they weren't back-to-back.

So take any advice I give with a grain of salt.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Amazing Technology in Our Lives

In another non-athletic post, I really struck me over the last twenty-four hours how much technology has changed- in this case for the better, our or at least my life. Offered in no particular order are some examples:

1) I watched the inauguration today, live, while sitting in my office- and watching my 'friends' react on Facebook. As a bonus, I also got to watch Yo-Yo Ma perform. Slam-dunk!

2) While watching A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart last night (an excellent, faithful adaptation with a stellar performance by Stewart), I was struck (as anyone who has seen the movie would be) by one unfortunate choice- the ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come is presented as a mutant giant Jawa. Curious how many others had the same thought, I Googled 'Patrick Stewart Jawa' before Scrooge had consigned himself to the ghost's care and was rewarded with the answer. Quite a few people...

3) My wife watched the inauguration at Pfizer on BBC News.

4) Tonight, tired of ABCs fascination with the Inaugural Balls, I turned to BBC America, and the presenters immediately and ironically turned to Ted Koppel for his analysis- of the speech and the implications of the moment. He did not mention the balls, because he has a pair...

5) I gave my son a gift for his birthday that he's going to get a lot of use and fun out of that I never saw advertised and knew nothing about until I was looking on Amazon for things he might like. It was shipped to me free and delivered in 48 hours.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Last Day Coming

The Cleanse does and doesn't get easier, and with just two days left, it's pretty awesome to have something to look forward to like the return of Battlestar Galactica.

It's easy to put too much of yourself, or just too much period, into television.

But there's something apt about this show returning at the penultimate day of the cleanse. This is not easy television. This is not hard television. This is as hard as television gets. It's unrelenting, it's dark, it's rarified.

Even the lighting, the sound, even the dialogue, tonight what we were treated to was stripped down, laid bare. The colours on 'planet earth' washed out, grays on gray.

And yet, at the same time, a show and a story full of life. The promise of answers to our questions. A message, that oddly, I imagine will fulfill Lee's belief that all of this has happened before, but it doesn't have to happen again.

It reminds me that some of Eric's clients look forward to the cleanse, to its renewal. To the opportunity to break old habits- nutritional- that lock us into a cycle that's self-limiting. Athletes have to have discipline in more ways than just workouts. One of those ways is nutrition. All of this was eaten before, but all of this doesn't have to be eaten again ?

Yeah, silly, I know. But maybe there's something to it anyway.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


It might just be the light-headedness from the cleanse diet, but when I was looking for something different to watch between 10-11 the other night, I picked up an old boxed CD set of the X-Files Season 5. I was on the fence between X-Files, Farscape (geek alert ?) or just listening to music.

I popped in the first disc and watched the season premiere Tuesday, and Part II tonight.

Watching these two episodes, just watching them, how they were filmed, how Mark Snow's music moves the narrative of the story, the chemistry of the actors...

I remember just why I liked this show so much.

Sometimes it's nice to re-discover a novel, a TV show, and old CD you forgot to add to your iTunes library, relax, and enjoy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Yoga, Cleanse Day Eleven, other Thoughts

With just three days left in the cleanse, it starts to click a little bit. I had a long day at work, with a longer one coming tomorrow- and had to wait to spin until I got home, and then it was time to head out to yoga.

Anyone who knows me probably understands what a daft concept this is- me at yoga. On one hand, my flexibility is actually pretty good for a 43-year old endurance athlete who still doesn't stretch adequately. On the other hand, if there isn't a challenge, I'll look to make one, when I'm doing something even vaguely athletic. I haven't been to class every week since Steve Surprise arranged for Force 5 to start getting yoga lessons at Zane's Cycles on Wednesday night, but I've been a few time.

The hard thing about yoga is that you really have to not try so hard. Amy, our instructor, talks about listening to your body, and doing what is enough for you. Of course, any option she gives us, I want to try. The harder and more challenging, the better.

Not the right approach for yoga. Long story short, I grunt way more than I should at yoga.

Still, it's good for me, it does help my flexibility, and maybe, just maybe, I'll start to get the mental aspect.

In the meantime, having a nice group evening activity takes your mind off the cleanse. It's almost over now. I'll be glad, really glad, just to have a beer. To not have to wonder if that's 5 ounces of pasta or 7 ounces of pasta.

But I'll also be glad to have done the cleanse. So coach- thanks.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cleanse, Day Ten- The Dowhill Grind ?

Eric usually coincides my downtime (one easy 45 minute workout a week) with the cleanse.

This year I've tried a new approach, spinning Monday through Friday, or spinning interspersed with short intervals. But I like structure when I spin, and I'm a big Spinervals fan, so I typically have those workouts to drawn on, even if I'm in the gym on a spinning bike. Basically, I have some of the shorter, simpler workouts memorized. Give me a clock or watch and the ability to adjust the tension while I spin and I'm off.

But I'm supposed to be going easy so when I thought about doing the Uphill Grind, I realised that's not what Eric had in mind.

So I inverted it, doing the Downhill Grind. The heart of the workout is 4 X 5 minute efforts with one minute rest- climb (hard gears) for four minutes, then super-spin in a moderately easy gear to simulate downhill work for one minute. So I did four minutes super-spinning in any easy gear, and one minute standing and climbing in a moderate gear.

The result ? A fun workout that was within the A-B zone (okay definitely B). And the Cleanse ? Certainly did not feel it on this workout. I felt perfectly fine.

Four days to go !

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cleanse, Day Seven, Long Run

Today was my weekly long run- two hours and five minutes. I run on Saturdays with Michael D'Addetta, and we run at a very moderate pace, but there's really no such thing as an easy two hour run.

So running for two hours during the cleanse ? As my coach suggested in his own blog, the cleanse does not turn your workouts into some kind of death march. During the week my workouts have been short-50 minutes or less as I'm in my recovery phase of the off season- but I've had good pickups and the workouts have all felt good- as has my pasta lunch afterwards.

I could tell the difference though. I usually run with either a bottle of gatorade or a cliff shot and for a two hour run I might normally take a cliff shot every 45 minutes or so. Today I took a bottle of Propel instead, which is like Gatorade's weak little brother.

It was cold this morning- my eyes starting watering when I got out of the car and we started running, and my water bottle tip kept icing up. But the run was never that hard, and I never felt like I didn't have the energy for it. It was just- harder. Especially climbing, which is kind of ironic because I've lost a number of pounds that ought to make hill climbing easier. It really was just a little bit more challenging, and nothing I couldn't handle.

I have a feeling that this was probably the hardest workout I'll have during the cleanse- my next long run will be on day fourteen, and I'll both have the advantage of my metabolism having fully adjusted and being on the last day of the cleanse and looking forward to a nice big breakfast- the type I usually only eat on Christmas and New Year's, that next day.

The bottom line- Eric's right. Your workouts don't have to suffer when your on the cleanse, you just have to dig a little deeper, and it's best to keep your effort moderated.

I'll still be glad to be able to have cheese again though.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Best Game Ever

I really will get on with my year end review, maybe Saturday afternoon when I'm on day seven of the cleanse. It's day five now and well, I'm more than a third of the way through and that's something...

Anyway, anyone who knows me well knows I am a big football fan- the pro variety, although I am watching the BCS championship game.

I'm in my early forties, and my dad was born in 1917. Although he died when I was eight, he did manage to install some of the game's history in that time. He was a Redskins fan, but he talked about the game, which I though really became something of interest to him in the late fifties. Unitas, Berry, Donovan were all names I knew and Frank Gifford was a football celebrity of course. And I started watching football in a way where I can remember it when I was four- the 1969 season, when the 1958 championship game was still a point of discussion.

But I've only seen photos and heard stories about this greatest of the great games. And after reading the first half of this book I already know more about Unitas, Berry, and Weeb than I did beforehand.

Bowden has a great way of capturing what the game was about, what these men were about, and he does it with a quick and easy style that makes the book a great page turner.

1958 is a long time ago- 50 seasons ago this year (the championship game was on December 28th, 1958). That's right, 50 years ago. If you sat through those 49er-Broncos Super Bowl blowouts and other easily forgotten lopsided snoozefest because you love the game, treat yourself to this book- you will not be disappointed.

Update on The Madoff Case

When I suggested not that long ago that Bernie Madoff belonged behind bars, I had no way of knowing how quickly I would be joined by people actually involved in the case.

In case you missed it, the prosecutors in the case are now calling for Madoff to be jailed. It appears that he and his wife sent millions of dollars worth of jewelry to family and friends over the holidays, adding an embarrassing exclamation point to the scandal.

His lawyer's response: "If he was found to be selling narcotics, if it's found that he threatened somebody, if it's found that he was fleeing the community, then I think your honor should consider new bail conditions," Sorkin told the judge Monday. "But that's not the case here."

However, if were found to say, have stolen billions of dollars and then tried hiding millions of dollars of what should become settlement money to help ease the economic devastation he caused ?

Again, let's stop with this nonsense that grand theft hedge fund is less of crime than simple battery. Crime = Crime. Let's leave it at that, and let's leave Bernie in jail.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Cleanse, Day Four

Margit and I started the Cleanse on Sunday, so for me, this is Day Four of the Cleanse, a two week nutrition plan that includes three meals and a mid-morning snack, plus 100 ounces of water.

It's an interesting change for me. No banana in the morning, no tuna and swiss cheese sandwich for lunch, no beer at night. I'd say the overall effect is that about 50% of what I usually eat and drink is off-limits, and the highlight of my day is some pasta with sauce at lunch right after my workout.

I can't say I like the cleanse. But I'm here, looking to get ten more days under my belt, and then-

-do my Sunday morning workout and have a big plate of scrambled eggs. With plenty of swiss cheese.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Year's Review, Part I

I'm late doing this. It's already 2009 and here I am just getting around to looking at 2008.

This blog is primarily a place to keep a record of my training and racing. It might surprise you, given the ridiculous and exhaustive detail with which I catalog all my races- really, I need ten paragraph for a race that was 19 minutes long ?- that I've never kept any sort of training journal or record of my races. At the end of the first full year I worked with Eric, he asked me to send him an excel spreadsheet with all the races I could find that I'd done on it. I know I had more than 50 entries on the sheet and that was only what I could find on the internet.

Things change, as Troy Aikman would say.

This was a very unusual year for all of us. It's hard, when your 403B is melting faster than a snowpile along the shoreline, when the Middle East is burning again, when the value of the homes we live in decreases daily, when maybe your job hangs in the balance- you get the picture- to remember that this was an historic year in good ways as well. We had a woman and african-american running for one party's presidential nomination and we elected our first black president. Regardless of your politics, it was a monumental redefinition of our process, suggesting that we may finally, in the 21st century, be emerging as a cultural capable of dismantling the artificial barriers we've erected around the halls of power. Although as Prop 8 in California reminded us, for every two steps forward, we are perfectly capable of taking one back, that inclusivity at the individual level can be highly selective, that we can love and hate at the same time.

I'm never sure what's more perplexing about human nature, its generosity, or its penury of compassion.

I saw the better part of human nature yesterday. Eric has been holding a Polar Plunge now for five years to raise money for charity, starting with the tsunami victims- I can't believe it's been that long. It was cold yesterday- I ran for two hours in the morning, and the whole time I was wondering if the weather would deter people from coming. We've had worse- colder, darker days, but Eric made a change this year that was key- he held the plunge at high tide, instead of in the morning.

The truth is though, that if he held it at 4 AM I think he'd get just about the same turnout- Gus with the dog, Denny, Eric's dad on the camera, Baker there for moral support, plus dozens of others, all crazy enough to run into the nasty cold water of the Sound. Most of us only know the cause that the Plunge raises money for through Eric each year, but I think we're all happy to do it because a) Eric's a great guy, and anything he's willing to put himself out there to support has to be worth it- look at the tremendous work he's done helping to take Ride for Rick from an idea (his) to reality b) it feels good to do good. I think your soul or whatever you want to call it can be a dark and evil place and you would still get a charge out of reaching out to good for others in a group of like-minded people.

The fact that there was snow on the beach this year stopped no one, and if fact all I heard from anyone this time around was that 'it wasn't that bad.'

There were other good moments- and of course the Plunge was actually this year, but hey, it's my blog...

An American stood on the podium and took away eight gold medals. CSC finally, in their exit performance, won the Tour. We had a presidential election that was not marred by allegations of voter disenfranchisement. The nation finally seemed to get the message about 'green energy'.

I don't know. On balance, I'm glad to see 2009 come in, even though I've never been a big believer in arbitrary divisions of time really meaning anything, and we have a lot to see before we raise our hands and dance like we just don't care.

Oh yeah, I did a few races. More on that later.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Frosty 5K

Results can be found here: 2009 Frosty 5k

I got distracted while writing this by the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet episode of the Twilight Zone. That's one of two episodes featuring the man many of you may now know as Denny Crane, but watching this, what you see is basically the exact same acting Shatner brought to Star Trek. Which is there in Boston Legal, but you have to search a bit sometimes.

Anyway, it was cold and wind this morning and that plays into one of the few theories of racing I have. They are- you should know what you are going to wear, you should know what you are going to eat, and you should only be flexible if you are really wrong. That's because I think when you start hemming and hawing over what to wear (or eat), you open the door on regrets that will eat at you no matter what decision you make and you waste warm-up time thinking about something besides warming-up.

I went to the race with Steve Surprise, one of my teammates from Force 5. It was cold.

I was wearing two layers, heavy socks and racing flats. Racing flats and heavy socks do not go and my toes were numb from some combination of the cold and the circulatory deficiencies.

I was having trouble warming up. There was a lot of congestion at the starting line, and people were running around the green. Half the street was still under snow, the wind was blowing.

I knew somewhere during the race I'd be overheated, but so what ?

I talked to Chris Dickerson, JB (John Bysiewicz) and then did my strides. I stopped once to mention to Chris that he looked like he was feeling good and he said he did. They were slow. I felt like my tights were holding me back...

Finally, the race started. About 4 strides into the race, a guy off to my right- a big guy in tights and a bright green running jacket, pulled a hamstring. I watched him hop a stride or two and then turned my attention to my own sorry start. I was pulling hard to the right, straight at the turn, running on the snow because it was the shortest path but with a lot of bodies around me, a lot of young kids.

I got my feet clipped in the turn, but I was able to keep my feet as we turned the corner, and then headed past pages and towards the next turn. There was a surprising amount of congestion but most of the guys around me were shying away from the snow so I went right for it as that was the tightest path. Chris was by me, and we were running out towards the water- that's a damn long run, there were too many people in front of me, and I was not feeling good about how I was racing.

We were all holding back because the wind was at our back and we knew eventually we'd turn into it. I hit a mile at 5:46, which was- what's the opposite of blazing ?

I was in 7th or 8th, two guys my age including Chris and several younger guys in front of me, JB close behind. I never look back but I do take advantage of a turn around to evaluate who's close on, and I saw JB, Kerry. I saw Steve sooner than I expected and assumed he was racing well.

And then we were running into the wind. It hadn't been easy when we were running out of the wind. Into it was brutal. I passe three guys as we headed up and over the bridge. I was still- in my mind at least- chasing Chris. I made the first turn, then the second and the third and we were behind the fairgrounds. i got passed back by one of the guys I'd passed and dropped to fifth. I tried to keep him close as we ran on the snow covered road- the road was white and would be until we got back on 146.

Then we turned and were running along the fairground- the wind was directly in our face, there was a thicker snowcoat on the road and I seriously questioned whether I was running or just walking. But the guy in front of me wasn't going anywhere.

Finally, we made the turn back onto black asphalt and the run to the final turn seemed to take forever. I was not closing. We finally made the turn and I knew I wasn't catching the guy that was about two seconds in front of me. I hate the end of the race where I am totally gassed and the low hanging fruit is-

I stopped thinking and decided I had the better angle. He'd taken the turn wide and lined up the finish line, which was on the opposite side of the street. Just as Chris Dickerson and I had run on the opposite side of the yellow line going out, taking that shortest path, I drew a straighter line to the finish and then I accelerated and went by the other guy, not just taking the best line, but earning it- I went by him and there was no response at all.

Og course, this wasn't a sprint to win the race, or even my age group. I was a lowly fourth, a forgotten third in my age group. And once again I'd been outrun and outclassed by Chris Dickerson.

But I'd run hard, finished strong. I warmed down with Steve and JB and got to talk to JB and Jenny and then had an awesome brunch with Steve, Margit and Ian.

It was a great way to start the New Year.