Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back to the Long Run

The weather was not what you'd hope for the first day home with your new bike. A little before 8 AM it was pouring rain, pounding down on the skylights.

My schedule said 2 hour run. I'd been off the last two days after a nice hard run on the treadmill and spin on Thursday. So a little spin wasn't the worst thing, just to get on the bike and kind of get a feel for the fit. I slipped an old wheel on about 90 minutes before my run and spun for about 50 minutes and all I can say is that I want to get that bike on the road, where it belongs, and if I listen to my coach and the things Dave Greenfield told me, that could be one fast bike.

I had time after my spin to get settled in for my run, so it wasn't a brick. I ran over to meet Mike D'Addetta at 1 PM at what I thought was a pretty sedate pace and then we got up to speed. We ran a nice 65 minute loop at a very steady pace, drizzle on and off, and then I was on my own again, running in the opposite direction from home.

I know that taking time off is important. So is time with your family. I'd asked Eric not to give me anything for that Friday-Saturday trip. I know myself. If I have an hour run, I'm going to try and cram it in. Margit even asked me if I wanted to go for a run Saturday morning. I passed. Instead I moved the car down the street, walked to Starbuck's for coffee and even treated myself to a doughnut, which is usually only post-workout food.

So I wanted to have a good run today. I got into that last forty minutes and the drizzle was coming down, the Sunday afternoon traffic was seemingly everywhere. A bleak spring day, the kind that is easy to let demotivate you. I felt like I hadn't been running hard, that I'd been running that way you run when you're coming off some rest and you've eaten a bit too well the last few days.

As so often happens, a little music changed everything up. Snow Patrol's 'Chasing Cars'. The rhythm of the song was just right and I found myself settling into that long stride that I have when I'm running, well, like a runner.

I had to forward the shuffle twice over the next 50 minutes. But when I hit the three way intersection at the armory and had to decide whether to take a left and end up running only about 1:50 or take the right and run 2:05-2:10, I took the right, and picked it up a notch. And maybe some of that run in the last 40 minutes was a bit too hard and I know my legs will be a little sore tomorrow.

But then again, late in the run is when you want to know you can pick up the pace in a two hour run, and I ran the last section hard, steady, and when I was done I felt strong, and, well, I enjoyed my long run. It wasn't the usual somewhat dull satisfaction of having met the time requirements. This was a real satisfaction with having run well and picked it when I started to maybe flag mentally a little bit. It's a soreness I won't mind tomorrow when I get up.

I'm glad I had a long run today. Sometimes it's the simple, straightforward workouts that bring the most satisfaction...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Notes from Philadelphia

I just wanted to jot down a few notes about our trip to Philadelphia (more to come):

- Dave at Elite Bicycles rocks. I got another great fit yesterday, good advice about what I can do off the bike to help me on the bike, and he practically gave away an upgrade from my T-Class to a Razor. All between moving to a new house and flying out to California. He's too much.

- Horizons vegan restaurant. I was skeptical, but it was a great meal.

- Parking. Parking in Philadelphia sucks. It's that simple. There's nowhere to park and you're likely to get ticketed when you do. The one-two punch. Brotherly love does not extend to the meter police.

-Nodding Head Tavern. Great food, great beer, great pint class. We'll be back.

-Philadelphia Zoo. I always feel conflict inside when I go to the zoo. If it sparks an interest in conservation and awareness in kids, that's awesome. Would I want to be an eagle living in a cage that can be measured in square foot ? Um, no.

- South Street Bridge repairs. Definitely complicates going places.

We had a blast. I want to go back this summer.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Finale

In another one of the weird left turns this blog occasionally takes, I really wanted to get my impressions of the end of Battlestar Galactica down in my blog, after having a few days to mull it over, but also while it was fresh in my mind.

I'd self-deprecate about taking the time to write about a mere TV show, and a science fiction show at that, but Battlestar wasn't a TV show or a sci-fi show. It really was the best show on television.

Was. Now, it's over, although there's a little more coming (The Plan).

BSG wasn't the first show I'd come across that was by turns brilliant and so painfully stark that it was nearly unwatchable. If I wanted to spend 45 minutes watching a show that would make me wish I hadn't, I'd pop one of the Shield DVDs and watch that. What made BSG unique was that even at its darkest, it was always working towards a point in the future and of course, RDM and the writers managed to continue to make you care about all the characters, even the ones you hated (except Laura).

I don't have the time or the inclination to bury the whole show in one short blog post.

But the finale- the critics have written about it, and the fans have written about it, and the reaction has certainly been mixed.

Here's my thoughts- first, it delivered exactly what it had to delivered.

After four years, a show about a futuristic aircraft carrier delivered a toe-to-toe (or rather toe-to-foot) battle. There had been some question as to whether the old girl would even make it to the final showdown, but it did, and the cleverness here was that rather than the air to air fight between Vipers and Raiders that so often had typified all versions of BSG, they concentrated on the assault on the Cylon colony and the Battlestar herself. This deck to deck, hall to hall fight was exactly what I think every fan wanted. After so much, how could we not fight to the bitter end ?

And even when halfway through, we seemed to be reaching the truce that we'd have to reach for the Galactica and her crew to survive, we got one final twist. Having gone back and started watching the whole season again, it was clear the writers had done their homework, and remembered the characters inside their drama, and when Tyrol killed Tory, its perhaps morally reprehensible, but at the same time, it's not just understandable, it's perfectly human.

What remains unclear is why Cavil kills himself. I know that's not a throw-away either, yet the whole point of the truce was Cavil's attempt to get the resurrection technology back, so...

For an hour, we got carried through the twists and turns that have made BSG exciting. The battles have always been the easiest part of the show. It's been unfailingly the people that have made this show hard to watch.

And then the Galactica makes that last fateful back-breaking jump, and suddenly, everything changes. Gone is the omnipresent threat of the Cylons. The Galactica comes up over the moon and there it is, our Earth. Not their Earth, but ours, 150,000 years ago.

And this, of course, is where many in the disgruntled fandom of the show groan, because suddenly the dark veil lifts. Personally, I think that of all the endings they could have chosen, this one is by far the bravest. The show that has for four years defined bearably- just bearably- dark, suddenly moves into the light.

Just look at the way the scenes are shot. Out on the serengeti, in the bright slunlight, talking, and loving and just living. Baltar cries about farming. Lee talks about exploring the word. And Adama goes all Highlander and buries his dead love in a cairn and builds a cabin on the mountain-top. This is not exactly what we in the BSG are used to. There are no guns, no knives, no knock downs or drag outs, no trials. And when Lee suggests the survivors just spread their wings and diffuse into what will become our distant pre-history ? Everyone agrees this is a good idea. The darkness isn't just lifted. It's seared away.

Yes, a little far-fetched, and maybe that's saying something about a series where robots have spent four years trying to stamp out or frak the remainder of the human race.

If that last hour has a weakness, it was that it seemed horribly rushed, the agreements and the final dislocation of the human race rushed. But how much of that could any of us have really taken. The dissolution of Starbuck and the final resolution of her relationship with Apollo, Laura's death, and of course, Baltar and Six finally coming to terms, all of that gets completed and that's all we really need after all. Apollo's supposition that all of this has happened before, but all of this doesn't have to happen again, turns out to be true.

Then comes the message- that final message that we'd better be careful- that we should think twice about how human we make our robots. And yes, maybe that was a little heavy-handed.

But in the end, the ride was worth it. And better, for three years, I've been telling Darren that Baltar was their saviour. And I was right.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shamrock 5 Miler and Fun Run, Part 2

So we finished up the kids race and I helped Margit get the stroller set up so she could push Ian, while she told me I'd better get my warmup started. If you wanted to read a real blog post, then you'd have to read her account of running five miles pushing the stroller. But you won't see that here, so you'll have to settle for another boring race report from me.


I lined up and two people caught my attention right away- Jesse Efrom and Mike Gyulay. On my best day and Mike's worst, I might push Mike for 3 miles or so in a 5 mile race. On my best day, I might be able to see Jesse for three miles. No one else set off any alarms, then again, I'm sure I wasn't setting off any alarms for either Jesse and Mike.

They started us off and the course is flat for a long time- a long time. This isn't the type of course that plays to my strengths- you basically just start running and hope for the best as you head away from the surf club.

To be honest, until I saw which way we were going from the start, I really wasn't 100% sure what the course was. I ride on a large part of the course almost every weekend, and had previously seen a 3 on the road I thought might be part of the course, however, the last time I'd run the race, we'd run across the soccer field at the start and couldn't begin to tell you what else we'd done.

So here I was, running by the guard shack, less than a 1/4 mile into the race, and I'm in second, chasing Jesse, with Mike just sitting on my heels. The little voice in my head was reminding me that if Mike, who is a faster runner, was behind me, I was probably running too fast early. But hey, I don't know what kind of shape Mike is in, and more importantly, I'm not Mike, So I didn't make any changes to what I was doing, I just ran- a little too hard. The road was flat and straight and then there were two pretty quick turns. I think Mike went by in the turns, and now I was in third and by the mile mark, I was already really in third, a good five or six paces off MIke and growing.

Jesse was in control of the race, and I mean really in control of the race. No offence to Mike, who was definitely kicking my ass, but Jesse putting down the hurt.

By the time we wound our way to the sea wall, I had to shift mental gears. Although I'd been keeping Mike in my sights because I was still evaluating how far he was ahead, what I needed to do to close the gap, because that's what you do, by the time I hit two miles, I certainly knew that I was racing for third. And I could hear the guy in fourth behind me. I could hear his footsteps, I could hear people cheering him on. I had five or six seconds, and that was it.

And I just kept running. I didn't try to evaluate that feedback I was getting. I took it for what it was, that someone was in range, but I was in front. I hit the one hill on the course, powered up it, took another turn. At the next turn, I could have dipped my head to the left- not a look back, just a head dip.

To me, it's the same thing. If you look back, well, I don't look back, that's me.

And then we took one more turn and we were running in the wind and we would be running in the wind the rest of the way.

There were a few turns left and then we were running back towards the clubhouse and I was tired, but I was trying to bear down and find half an extra gear, because someone was chasing me down.

There's that moment right at the end of the race where the finish chute is so close that you can just take it home and even though you're not finished yet- that's the sweetest moment in a road race, maybe half a dozen steps from the finish, with just enough of a cushion that no one is catching you and no one's close enough in front to catch, and you can just relax- not physically, but from the neck up.

And then it was over, and I hadn't been caught and I didn't feel half like throwing up, so it was easy to go back in the chute and shake the hand of the guy behind.

I grabbed Dave and ran a warm-down, and even though I came in at 30:06, I'll take it and head on to the next race.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Shamrock 5 Miler and Fun Run, Part 1

It was cold- colder than it should have been. It had, after all, snowed on the way to Zanes where I was meeting Margit so we could head together to the race.

This was going to be the big day.

This was going to be the day Ian ran his first race, front to back. He was excited about the fun run.

We gave him a choice of who he wanted to run with, and he chose me, and Mommy went out onto the course to wait. However, as the time to start lengthened and the wind picked up, he started to get cold and I could see that he was not-

Not what ? Not me ? Not well, not NOT four years old ? It's a magic place, the inside of the head of a four year old and all I remember about that age are sensory impressions, not emotions, not rational processes.

So I grabbed hold of my son's gloved hand and we started out. Sometimes, it can be difficult. I was a coach for a number of years and there's a part of me that has difficulty not issuing orders advice, like that it would be easier to run if we weren't holding hands. And I know he's so excited that he's running too hard, that the run will become a walk, the walk become a plea to be carried, perhaps accompanied by crying....

This won't meet my expectations, or rather, won't meet my hopes. But my son, he's four. My hopes and expectations are not really relevant. The real question ? Will he be happy when he's done ? Will it give us a family moment that we can remember ?

It does. He runs hard and fast, then slower, then finally walks. But he covers three-fourths of the course before the exhaustion only a four-year old can experience sets in. Finally, he gets carried a short way, but runs across the finish line.

Later that day, he spends half an hour in the driveway playing something that very loosely could be called soccer. His energy is back, he's happy and laughing, so I know it's not that he can't run that distance or that long. And so what ? If he's not ready now, well, he will be someday. And if he's not ready some day ? That's all right too.

Athletics is an all-volunteer endeavour. Anything else is a mistake.

He's a trooper after the race, and when they are handing out medals for all the participants in the fun run, I ask if he wants one and when he says yes, I get one hung around his next straight away, and it does make him happy. And proud.

He's four, and he had a good time, and the rest, well, there is no rest. There's just the smile on his face, and that's everything.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shamrock and Roll 5K

It doesn't usually take me a week to get round to writing a race report, especially when it's only the second race of the year, but it was busy week, with all that Daily Show watching, getting ready for spending the weekend in class and writing a significant presentation for it....

The Shamrock on Roll 5K is always hard. There's the physical profile of the course- a short slightly sloping downhill followed by a wicked climb, a short down hill, small flat, short uphill, then a rocketing downhill that reverses the long uphill, and two final turns with an shallow uphill until near the finish.

Did I mention they serve free Guinness after the race ?

It was a beautiful day for a 5K, especially for a 5K in March- it was in the upper 50s, very near 60, bright and sunny. It was amazing because on Monday we'd had about a foot of snow dumped on us, the schools had been closed and we'd gone sledding.

I got in a good warm-up, running with Michael and Charlie Hornak. When we got back to the start I started my strides, and by race time I was feeling as good as I was going to feel. I wasn't expecting a lot. While I'd been doing hill repeats for two weeks leading into the race I knew I was under-raced, out of shape, and overtrained.

It had been beautiful on Saturday and I responded by taking my T-Class out and doing a 1:50 time trial on it. I'd also run the Branford Road Race course in the morning. This is not how you rest for a 5K and that's OK because I'm not training for one, and even if I had been, I'd have shelved that for a chance to enjoy a great day. When the weather drops a nugget like last Saturday in your lap and you have time to ride, you take it and have no regrets.

The countdown finally came and we were off. I have the line for this course in my head. Exactly where I want to start to be able to run a dead straight line to kerb, then exactly how I want to take the first turn. After that it's the hill and everything starts to separate. I'd been watching the guys at the starting line and I knew one thing. I was up against a lot of young talent, and by up against I mean I was going to get my ass handed to me.

The hill is one of the great moments in racing for me. I mean, I'm OK on hills, but this hill in specific is so long and so severe for a 5K, that it's just fun. I was back and forth with a lot of teenage and twenty somethings and that was all good. I knew some were faster and some would fight and even though I'm old and slow and sometimes I question how much fire is left inside me to battle on short running courses (and when I'm not questioning if I still have it, I know I don't, just look at the pedestrian times I run), egotism and orneriness still do burn brightly. It doesn't matter what motivates you when you use it to run faster than your body alone can carry you.

You have to fight smart on the hill. A guy in orange went by me and instantly I knew he was my competition in my age group. How ? He looked like he had to still be in his thirties (all the best 40-somethings are better/younger looking after all) and he had just passed me.

But a funny thing happened on the way to second place in my age group. I passed him back. And this wasn't one of those stupid 'I'll show this guy who's the alpha male' passes. I measured his stride, waited, and went by him at my normal stride- he'd overcooked the hill a little.

I went through the turn- finally I was off the hill. Having been passed on it had shaken my happy thoughts a little, but I had Linkin Park's Bleed It Out swimming in my head (no, I wasn't wearing headphones), and I was in the mix and we took another turn, went up a short way and popped back out on the road. We were on the downhill and I worked. People in the pack going the other way were yelling my name as I went by, while on my side of the road people keep cheering this one kid I was jockeying with.

I ran hard, I passed some people. One guy running with me said' let's go get' the guy in front of us, but I wasn't talking. I was running in that back half of the 5K way I run, where I get big, and not in a good way. I'm a fairly steady runner, but I'm big for my size and when I get tired I run big, which is less efficient.

About halfway back down the hill orange shirt guy passed me and given his cadence, he might as well have staked me in the heart and stuffed my mouth with garlic on the way by. The part of my brain I don't trust (and maybe should) said to try and hop on, but the guy that tries not to blow up in the Ironman marathon has maybe had a little calcification of his race risk muscles.

That's an excuse. Better to say he passed me running well and I didn't rise to a challenge I should have risen to.

I stayed at my pace, jockeyed right into the two turns. I was over 18:00 at three miles.

Damn !

I still ran as hard as I could. I got caught literally in the chute, getting a same time but lower finisher than the teenager alongside me.

I fought off a case of the vomits, grabbed two Guinness tickets, warmed down with Charlie and Mike, then drank.

18:38, 18th overall, second in my age group.

Good enough ? Yes.

Um, no. It's never good enough.

Did I enjoy myself ? Sure. Sometimes it's OK to hold off the performance based self-loathing until later. Especially when there are friends and Guinness.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

'I work hard for my money'

I was watching the Colbert report last night when I was struck by something Chris Matthews said in a clip that Colbert showed.

Now I'll admit I don't know the whole context because I work all day and even when I am at the gym at lunch to work out, I am not listening to CNN, MSNBC, or whatever other news channels. I might be looking at it, but I'm listening to NIN. And for all I know, Hardball is on after I get home, but I don't think I've ever seen Matthews anywhere but the Comedy Channel.

However, what he said was extant, and that is that he though Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged was 'kind of romantic'. Now first, I have to admit to having enormous respect for anyone who has actually read the novel front to back, which seems to be at once a complex, brutal argument for a perverse philosophy and an attempt to strangle the entire english language into submission. In fact, the novel seems to have been conceived to stand as a barrier to the further adoption of english literature, a punishment for anyone gullible enough to pick it up and wade in.

Is that an exaggeration ? Possibly, although less of one than saying the novel or Rand's philosophy is romantic, given that romance is the gift of love and Rand's is the gift of selfishness as the greatest good and highest purity.

Serving as an unpaid intern at the Rand Corporation is or is oxymoronic ? Discuss....

Sorry, where was I ?

After Matthews, the next clip was another news channel talking-head railing against limiting the tax deductions for upper-income types. This woman, a TV presenter, was questioning why 'her hard work' should go to support people who weren't working as hard.


Let me repeat that.


Hey, I work hard every day at work. Sometimes I stay late, sometimes I bring work home or answer emails late at night, and yeah, I had to play field hockey and drink beer study pretty hard to get through five years at university. And I'm sure being a presenter on TV for an hour or two five days a week involves a lot of time- in make-up, collaborating with the people who write your copy, reading the news/internet/watching other talking heads to help crystalize your talking points. You probably have to be, especially and discriminatorily if you are a woman, better looking than the rest of us sorry lot. And I'm sure you need at least a journalism BA or similar degree.

But working harder than other people ?

You know who works hard ? The hotel maid that works 10 hours a day 5-6 days a week, on her (or his) feet all day every day, scrubbing munge off toilets. The people that flip burgers at McDonalds, elbow deep in grease and grimy for minimum wake.

Hard work is long hours at low pay doing jobs that garner inadequate respect. I'm not saying that you can't have a desk job that is hard, terribly hard. Incredible pressure? Sure. Intense responsibility ? Of course. But to say that you work harder because you what- make more money ?


We have to, as a society, move past this idea. The people who are saying 'Why should I ?' need to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really believe that they are somehow better than other people just because of their pay grade, and then ask themselves if it's acceptable that people live without homes, clothes, and food to increase their own comfort.

I'm no socialist. But I think when you start seeing yourself as better than other people because of how much money you make, when you assign yourself moral superiority because you pay bigger bills than the next guy, well, you need to re-evaluate yourself.

Elite Bicycles- Awesome

I just wanted to add another gushingly positive endorsement of the guys at Elite.

As I posted on the blog previously, Dave from Elite discovered a crack in my frame a few days before Ironman Florida. First, imagine that your bike company travels to your two favourite IM races- Florida and Lake Placid- and services your bike for free, including upgrading any parts that need it and letting you pay up when you're ready.

Then, Dave lets me know that he'll be replacing the frame- on him. Or I can upgrade to a Razor for a ridiculously low price- and no pressure here either. Dave would have happily swapped out my old T-Class for a new one, perfected an already great fit and spent half a day with me.

Then he hooks me up with his art guy, who sticks with me through the usual difficulties deciding what colours I want on my bike, what I want done special.

Finally, he arranges to spend half a day with me, getting the fit just right again on the new bike, working around my schedule.

I don't know what else I can say about these guys except they really have taken the whole customer service thing to an insane level...

Pictures of New Bike

First the pix, then a few words about the guys at Elite:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Back Outdoors

My 11 AM meeting ran late (don't they always ?) and I found myself look at 12:15 with two choices- walk 5 minutes to my car to drive 10, and probably only get about 1000 yards in the pool, then drive back, or run 40-45 minutes wearing nothing but tri-kit and gloves.

This is not a choice. If my car had been in the parking lot and it had been noon, I would have headed straight to the pool, but even though the mid-thirties is a little cold for bike shorts and singlet, I knew that the cold would only last for, well part of the run. I'd had a good spin this morning and I'd done the hill workout on the treadmill (below) yesterday, so I needed a solid, really solid tempo run.

With the exception of the fact that my Zoot trainers let water in through the bottom (great for triathlons, lousy for running in slush and puddles), it was a great run and another example of how you can be one the fence about a run and it turns out to be the best thing you could do. By the time I was climbing up one of the bigger hills halfway through the run and NIN's Sin came on the iPod, I knew I'd made the right choice.

I may not be in Arizona like my coach and his camp, but that doesn't mean it's not time to get outdoors...