Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Injuries make for lame updates

I haven't been up to too much the last few weeks. No running and cycling makes Nick a dull boy. With any luck, I'll have some news about the progress of my knee injury after my first physical therapy session this evening.

Even though I don't write too much about my actual training, when I'm not doing it, I become more deeply involved in my other activities. And with Hannah in Texas, that leaves me with work, which I haven't been short of in the past few months. But since writing makes up a good part of my work, I don't really want to spend more time writing about work.

So, to tide you over until I have something interesting/amusing to say, watch this trailer that I came across the other day. Since Tim Burton's involved, you can bet it's going to be really bizarre. All the same, it looks pretty cool. And it probably helps that they use a Coheed & Cambria song in the trailer, which ups the awesome factor.

Have a happy New Year. Watch out for post-apocalyptic robotic cats (or whatever that thing is).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Apocalypse... not now, maybe later

I feel like I've avoided some personal disaster, at least as far as my sanity goes.

An explanation:

I've been dealing with some right knee trouble for the last two weeks.

It started during a run on Monday, December 1, hurt enough for me to cut my December 2 run short and then was bothering me at my track session on December 4, which I stupidly decided to finish. It hurt enough that I took the entire following week off from running or riding. On Saturday, December 13, I did an easy 90 minutes on my bike (very easy) and then lifted (very light weights). My knee didn't bother me at all during the ride, but I stupidly pushed through some light pain during leg lifts at the gym. I tried running on Sunday morning and got 20 minutes in before the pain became debilitating. I then walked it back home.

Yesterday I went to see a sport orthopedist, who, much to my surprise, said I didn't need an MRI. Basically, it's just very tight iliotibial band, tensor fascia latea, and the assorted inner leg muscles combining in a perfect storm to pull my knee out of alignment, which, not surprisingly, hurts a lot.

The prescription is some vitamin-I for the inflammation and physical therapy and strengthening/stretching of all the assorted muscles in the area. Interestingly, I learned nothing yesterday that I didn't already know from the interwebs (specifically, ExRx.net, the best little strength training/injury site on the Internet -- complete with anatomically correct 3D digital models!), I just wanted a professional confirmation.

So, I'm off running or riding until this clears up. If might be as much as six weeks, but since that would be awful, I'm hopeful I can be better sooner. If there's one thing I am, it's aggressive about recovering from an injury (I kicked the crap out of my achilles/calf trouble 18 months ago -- take that body weakness!).

If you're looking for a lesson here, it's that you shouldn't be stupid about stretching and strengthening the unused parts of your body. This is closely linked to the hip (TFL) pain I talked about last time. Sedentary office life doesn't naturally mix well with having a healthy lifestyle.

Monday, December 08, 2008

This just in: I'm not 19 anymore

Hannah and I met in Florida over the weekend to visit her friend Sue who has a house in Sarasota. We're quite the international travelers lately.

It was a nice trip: some sun, some beach, some strolling around. Lots of not-young people.

I've been having some trouble with my hips for the last five months, specifically my TFL in both legs. I'm pretty sure it's all related to tight/over-worked IT bands, in turn related to tight/over-worked soleus muscles in my calves. It's not because I do too much training, but it's because I do too much training after sitting in a desk chair all day (and with the current market conditions, I've been spending a lot more time in an office chair).

I still try to get the same (or more) exercise in as I have for the last few years. The problem is, with limited time and even more limited motivation, flexibility work is the first thing to get cut.

After watching the pained expressions on many slow-moving folks over the weekend, I've decided to recommit to keeping myself in good working order. Goodbye power-lifting, hello girly hip bridges.

Also, hello awfully painful foam roller. If you've ever used one before, I'm sure you're surprised by my reluctance to use it daily.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Lost and (thankfully) found

I was down in Texas for the entire week of Thanksgiving. While you might think that San Angelo has no Internet access (based on my lack of blog updates), you'd be wrong. I was just lazy.

On Sunday, Hannah and I did a short trail run to try out our new END Stumptown trail shoes and see if they're as cool as they look. The answer: Yes. Very cool and very fast.

On Thursday, we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner for Hannah's brother and three airmen from the local base. Because Hannah had so much fun running on the trails on Sunday, we opted to go out for another trail run in the state park before getting ready for dinner. Hannah chose to wear the new shorts I bought her. (50% off on all running gear at Randy's Bike and Run! Of course, that's only applicable to my two San Angelo readers, both of whom probably already know about it...)

Anyway, they have a nifty little key pocket, in which she put the car key. About a mile into the run, we stopped for me to fiddle with my running vest (which I had just learned -- after seven years of ownership and clearly a lack of common sense -- folds into itself to become a hip pack). As I was about to bound off down the trail again, Hannah asked if she had given me the key. It was then we realized that Hannah's shorts had a key-sized hole.

Long, uninteresting story short, we searched and searched. We were both worried about getting back in time to make all the food for dinner, and beyond that, actually getting back to the house in time for dinner. Just when I was ready to give up and go run back to the ranger station to call the police or AAA to come help us out, I found the key, standing out in the middle of a clear patch of sandy trail. How we missed it twice before, I have no idea.

Thanksgiving was saved, dinner was prepared and the airmen were interesting to talk to. Since all three are in Intelligence, I now know exactly the same amount of secrets about our national security as I did when they arrived. In fact, I think they shredded some of my own stuff for good measure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm (mostly) a man

I read about the Genderanalyzer over on BikeSnobNYC and thought I'd try it out. Initially, I was apprehensive, because I'm sure I have stereotypical feminine qualities that pop out in my writing -- talking about shoes, for example. Luckily (for my ego), I'm definitively a dude. Well, the site is 70% sure anyway. I blame the talking about shoes and the cat (and the pictures of me in lycra) for any uncertainty.

What made my day was when I put in RDM's site.

It's always gratifying to know that you're more of a man than your brother. And he doesn't wear lycra and write about shoes, so I'm not sure what he can have as an excuse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I ordered another pair of shoes

I know, I know...

But these are so cool and they're green.

I read about END Footwear in a recent issue of Runners World that my friend gave me and my interest was piqued. The company's story is worth checking out.

Beyond the environmental impact, I was most intrigued by the minimalist design. I'm a big believer (as a result of my own injury experience) that many of today's running shoes are overbuilt. My current shoes (Vitruvian) are about as spartan as you can get and work great for me, but I wanted to try a "racier" shoe (in terms of weight, not sex-appeal). I'll be honest though -- the Vitruvians are not the coolest looking thing out there and the END shoes are pretty sharp.

On top of all that, these are $60 sneakers. For some reason, that's my "this is an awesome thing to try and if it doesn't work out, whatever"-price point (my Vitruvians are $60 -- and those worked out great). The more solid trail runners and light hikers are a little more, but the entire range is less than $100 -- that's almost unheard of in today's footwear marketplace.

Oh yeah, I ordered Hannah a pair too. Because -- clearly -- now I no longer only get excited about my own running shoes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Crushing the dream

On Friday, I was in Boulder for a bike fuel and lactate test. I wanted to do it for two reasons:
1) I feel like my training is a lot of shooting in the dark. I wanted a better sense of the efforts I should be using in my day-to-day workouts.
2) It seemed really cool and I didn't want another "thing" for my birthday. Instead, I got some neat looking spreadsheets (that you can see below -- exciting!).

What I learned: I'm not good enough to be a pro athlete. Once the shock has worn off and you've climbed back in your chair, you can read on to see what the test was like and what the results mean.

**Warning - This might be boring**
The test was basically on a very high-end stationary bike that is adjustable so it could mimic my exact position on my tri bike. After I warmed up for about 25 minutes, Mat, the tester, took a blood sample (by pricking my finger) and then measured my blood lactate for a baseline.

Then, I got all dorked out with a heart rate monitor and a mask that connected to a machine that measured my breathing output (and whatever sort of stuff is measurable when you breathe).

We started the test by ramping up to 110 watts. Every five minutes Mat would take a new blood sample then increase the resistance by 15 watts. To sum up, eventually I couldn't really turn the pedals anymore and there was all sorts of spit and sweat flying.

Here are the expensive graphs/charts:
This one shows what energy sources I'm using as the effort increases. It's good that my fat burning is pretty level the whole way across, although it could stand to be raised significantly.

I'm not exactly sure that this means in science terms, but you can see the lactate go through the roof once I pass 170 watts. In unscientific terms it means I can't go very hard for very long. And "hard" for me is not actually that many watts.

This is what I was most interested in. It gives me all the HR and wattage zones that I was looking for.

I didn't really know how to interpret all of this, so luckily, Alan, Endurance Corner's resident physio wiz, explained it to me. In a nutshell (mostly in Alan's words, pulled from the e-mails he sent me):

-My absolute power output is woeful (that's my observation; Alan was much more polite), but my power to weight ratio is decent. That means I have better potential for success on climbing courses. I have a good tolerance to a wide range of power levels and should look at courses like Placid or Canada for a best relative result. (Well, that works out).

- I have a good base-level of training. In terms of limiters, there's a lot of upside that can come from increasing my FTP (functional threshold power).

- I also need to do more at "steady" -- basically, try to close the gap between the black and gray fields in the second chart.

- More steady-state training will ultimately prove to be the quickest path to improving my short-term IM performance. Extending my FTP will help me out in the long-term.

Straight from Alan's e-mail: "In summary, you're quite 'fit' but not as 'fast' as you could be on the basis of your fitness. This is not to say that there is not more room for improvement in your 'fitness' but, IMHO, in the name of balance and getting some return on your investment, some of your basic week should be devoted to higher intensity training."

Now, everything's relative. I clearly have a lot more "fitness" I can attain. That's evidenced by the fact that I couldn't get past 215 watts (for contrast, there are a lot of people that race ironman at an average 215 watts).

So, the short answer that came out of the test for me: I need to be working harder (actual "hard" efforts or "steady." No more noodling around). There's more in the results, but it gets a lot less compelling for anyone that isn't me.

Was it worth it for me? Absolutely. I'd even consider going back a year from now to see if anything has changed.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Living the dream

I was out in Colorado over the weekend living my professional triathlete dream and getting some physiological testing done. As it turns out, my pro-triathlete dream involves killing myself on a stationary bike, getting my finger pricked every five minutes, and wearing a Darth Vader mask. I should also add that this was my birthday present from Hannah. A present I asked for.

Not surprisingly, the test revealed that I don't have what it takes to be a pro triathlete. Luckily, we planned a weekend trip around it to soften the blow. I'll talk about the fun part in this post, then I'll talk hiking and beer and such, torture that it was.

I kid; I'll talk about the vacation first, then I'll talk about the fun stuff later. ;-)

Skipping around my lab test on Friday, I wandered about Boulder for a few hours, looking at all the fit people and getting accosted by what seemed like hundreds of college kids asking me if I voted yet. Seeing as how the election wasn't for a few days, I was a little confused.

Hannah came in Friday night and we went for a hike to the top of a peak (Bear Peak) on Saturday. Normally I'd post some awesome pictures, but our digital camera was playing games. When the battery indicator said it had 75% power (when I checked before we left the hotel), it actually meant it had 75% power for one more picture. So you get this one.

I was able to trick the camera into thinking it had a little more life in it once more at the top of the mountain.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Boulder, then headed back to Denver to shower and go out for dinner (elk burger = good).

Sunday was some more leisurely strolling around Denver, a visit to the REI flagship store, more people questioning us if we had voted yet, a stop in the Colorado history museum, and some more good beer and food. Then it was off to the airport and back to New Jersey/Texas.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sometimes things just suck

I know some of you read Fat Cyclist. If you don't, it's worth heading over there now.

It's hard to understand a range of emotions you can feel for someone you don't even really know, but learn more about every day. The few random blogs I read are my Access Hollywood; I'm more interested and involved in the goings-on of these people than the celebrities I'm told to care about.

It's times like these I remember I'm only a competent writer, not a good writer. If you want to read some good writing about this, go over to Up in Alaska and read Jill's latest post.

Monday, October 27, 2008

We have a non-loser!

Our race on Saturday went off with only a few minor hitches, but ultimately was a good time.

Surprisingly, we finished not last, despite only three people in the boat rowing more often than four times a year.

We finished 24 of 30. That includes beating a few alumni boats (which is essentially what we are, although we're not alumni of any one school), and some college "B" boats. It's always gratifying to race against colleges or other clubs, most of whom are rowing every day, and (while still getting beaten by many of them) hold our own.

The weather was cruddy as expected: lots of rain and wind. That wasn't much of an issue for any of us though. Now that most of us aren't really involved in the goings-on of various boat clubs, we can just show up, rig the boat, race, put the boat on the trailer and leave. Rowing and rain are only a pain when you have to stand around all day. From leaving the parked car to driving away, we were in Philly for less than three hours.

Also, as expected, this race didn't end with me beating my Schuylkill demons, but I managed to throw some holy water on them and keep them at bay.

Friday, October 24, 2008

More rowing

I'm back in another boat this weekend. This time it's an eight with some old friends at the Head of the Schuylkill in Philly. This is the third year running that I've been signed up for a race at the Schuylkill when it was expected to rain. In '06 and '07, the regatta was cancelled. We'll see if the trend continues.

Interestingly enough, the event is now two days long. I suspect it's so they can put the odds in their favor and get at least some races down the course on one of the two days. A third cancelled regatta might mean the end of the event altogether.

A little-known (and little-interesting) fact about me is that I've only ever had one good race in Philly, and that's with eight years of rowing competitively and a handful of years rowing half-assedly. Since I'm in what my friend Ed calls our "crap-bag" eight this weekend, I don't expect this to be the year where all my dreams of Schuylkill glory come to fruition. Note, I expect to have fun, it just won't be anything close to resembling a good race.

One of many bad races on the Schuylkill. Where are the other boats? Either way ahead of us or crashed into a bridge behind us.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A (should-have-been-expected) blow to the ego

Sunday I confirmed that I no longer have the rowing fitness to hop in a boat with no practice and row two races in one day.

In the early afternoon, I rowed a 2- (that's one oar per person) with my friend Ian at the Head of the Passaic, a 2.5 mile race organized by my old rowing club. We finished in 19:55.

After a quick hamburger and re-rig of a boat, I was back in a 2x (two oars per person) with Ian for another go on the course. We finished that race in 19:53.

Normally, over that distance, rowers of equal ability should be minutes faster in a 2x compared to a 2- (and, since we were the same people in both, I assume we're equal).

At the end of the day, my shoulders were wiped out, my lower back was killing me, and my hands were ripped apart. It's probably likely that I haven't been fit enough to do two races a couple hours apart for years, but, since I haven't tried the double row for a few years, I could hold on the to dream that "I've still got it."

About the only things that were redeeming about both rows is that we beat our friends in the other 2- and I was recovered enough to do a MAP run test on Monday. So, I'm still fit. I'm just not rowing-fit. That's specificity for you.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Back at it

Sorry for the delay in posting, I was off doing stuff.

After doing that stuff, Hannah and I went up to the Adirondacks, which, despite being rainy almost the whole time, was a nice place to spend a week. It was full-on fall foliage, so even with the dreary sky, the scenery was great.

As a general rule, Hannah likes to go for nice, artsy shots.
Or, she takes pictures of me walking away.
I, on the other hand, had a burning desire to use the time-delay setting on the camera. A setting I clearly could not get a handle on. And the best attempt left me lobotomized.

There was one sunny day. Hannah got to bust out her new bike. And I got to ride very, very hard, while she effortlessly cruised farther and farther away on the climbs. I blame my old heavy road bike. And the hills. And my current (lack of) fitness. And that food-poisoning I got eight years ago.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yoga is hard

I picked up a yoga DVD on sale the other day: "Power Yoga for Flexibility." It features Rodney Yee, who I assume is a famous yoga teacher (yogi?), based on the many, many DVDs that feature him. Actually, for all I know, each DVD has the same content, just with a different cover.

In any event, whether Rodney is the real thing or if he's the John Edward of the yoga world, I can say the flexibility workout he goes through is hard. Not only am I woefully inflexible, but I had to stop the DVD a little past half way because it was kicking my butt. Part of that is because he flies through the routine (I thought yoga was supposed to be relaxed?) and part is because I have no idea what he's talking about. Mountain pose? Power pose? Upward dog? Breath? Stretch? What do these words mean?

Hopefully I'll get better the more I do it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Process-oriented vs. Results-oriented

As I've mentioned before, and for anyone that's noticed, I'm a process-focused guy.

Results-oriented people have a goal (or goals) in mind that take priority over all else. Simply stated, the ends justify the means. Obviously, that produces an ethical problem for some.

Process-oriented people -- while having a goal in mind -- generally focus on setting up a process for continual growth and improvement.

I've been thinking about it a lot the last few weeks. If you want to attain true excellence, I think you need to be results-focused. Every Olympic medalist has a singular focus; without it, they wouldn't win. I'm willing to be it's the same for every senior executive at a major company. For a big chunk of their careers, I'm sure there wasn't much life balance in there.

I'd be willing to bet that, over the course of human history, process-focused folks probably haven't achieved as many singular moments of defined excellence as results-focused people.

Does that mean process-focus is a cop out? An artificial way to maintain a general level of day-to-day happiness? Maybe. But since I'm not going to win an Olympic medal and I don't want to work hard enough to become a Fortune 500 CEO, I'll stick with what I've been doing.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I like believing in the little guy. That might be because, more often than not, I am the little guy.

I also like believing in the guy that's the dreamer, although -- more often than I'd like -- I'll have some derisive comment in my mind when I hear about somebody doing something that's a little bit out there.

I'm working on cutting back on my cynicism. That said, self-deprecation is another thing entirely.

"Not much has been accomplished by cynical people." -Garrison Keillor

Keillor's actually talking about St. Paul, Minnesota, but I think it applies anywhere. You can see the whole clip on ABC news. It's worth a watch.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hannah gets a new bike

I swear, I used no effort to find that picture -- it must have been fate.

Hannah is the lucky soon-to-be-recipient of a brand new bike. Through a strange confluence of interweb-related events, I found out Javelin Bikes is closing out all of their older aluminum models. These are fully built bikes with all components included, for less than what the frame alone normally costs. Again, through sheer luck, Hannah is going to wind up with a better bike than mine, for about half the price.

As I'm sure you'll agree, we figured buying a new bike was a more fiscally-responsible thing to do than renting a bike in Lake Placid for $60 for the one day we're going to go riding. Plus, I can snag her bar-end shifters when we swap out her bullhorn bars for regular road drop bars (I know, I know, bike terminology gobbledygook for the majority of you). So that saves us another $100 since I won't have to buy new shifters for my own bike (the housing on my shifters is cracking). This bike is paying for itself already! Lest you think this is completely at odds with my last post, we've been looking for a new bike for Hannah for a while now. The fact that we try to keep things simple in our lives allows us to buy bikes or new washing machines (only marginally less cool than a new bike) without undo worry.

There's one other super-special bonus that comes from buying this bike: since Hannah will now have two bikes (and I already have two bikes), that means I'm next on the bike buying rotation. My nefarious master plan is all coming together.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Simple isn't easy

I'm a fan of following a basic week when it comes to my training. If I keep the simple training schedule as non-optional, then it gets done.

It also works for all the other (more important) priorities in my life: Hannah, my job, finances, etc. I've been most successful in my life when I've said, "I am doing this" and let other things fall in place where they can. If something doesn't fall in place, then it's probably not that important.

The catch is, keeping things this simple isn't so easy. There's a lot of outside pressure to adjust to the contemporary standard. An overly superficial example is cable TV. I don't have any issue with cable (or satellite) TV itself, but for me, it's a huge time waster. I won't be able to accomplish what I want to get done if I'm sitting in front of the TV.

So, now I don't have cable (although, at the time when we first broke away from it, I vaguely remember throwing a fit: "How can we NOT have cable?"). Taking it out of the equation made my decision easier. Of course, I do like Man vs. Wild and the other shows on Discovery, so there's always that desire in the back of my mind. That gets addressed every other week for a day or so since we have cable in Texas (it comes with the Interweb). Hannah's the one that has to fight with the daily lure of Dirty Jobs.

A few years back, when I got my first apartment (and cable), I remember talking to my brother (who did not have cable) about some great show on MTV. I couldn't fathom that he wasn't able to watch it and in fact, didn't care about watching it. Now, I can't remember the last time I cared about MTV (it's probably around the time I left that apartment). Incidentally, JNM now has cable, but last I checked, he didn't have time to watch it anyway. So that's one way to not waste hours in front of the TV -- be out of your house all the time.

That title came from Father Peter Pearson's homily at St. Philip's in New Hope this past weekend. I wasn't clever enough to come up with it on my own, so I borrowed liberally.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Alternate life

Last night at dinner with my folks and one of my brothers, my mom asked what we would do if we didn't have to work for a living. My immediate answer was I wouldn't work.

When she clarified that to ask what if we were independently wealthy, I still stuck to the same answer: I'd do basically everything I do now, except I wouldn't have the career part. We'd be in the Adirondacks tomorrow.

I believe she asked the question under the general assumption that people aren't happy with their full-time jobs. I know at least one of my brothers falls into that category. But, the truth is, I genuinely enjoy my job. I like business. I like Ayn Rand. Will I want to be working in a big corporation five to 10 years from now? I don't know, but right now I do.

What we didn't talk about, but I thought about after, was, if I could/had to start over on a different career path, what would I do? There's always kinesiology, but truthfully, I'm not that into the science of sport. I enjoy knowing what I know and seeking out more information, but I tune out when it comes to the intricacies of VO2 and blood lactate.

Odds are I'd be an industrial engineer. I'm a process guy; that's where my strengths are. What's nice is, I can still do that kind of work in the future. So again, I'm doing what I want to be doing.

This is all interesting to me, because, despite going to school with a whole mess of engineers, it wasn't until entirely too recently (years after I left college) that I learned that industrial engineers aren't the guys that build these:

That's odd, because it's not like I thought civil engineers were guys that wrote books like this:

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cycling videos - IT band

Backdated from 8/31/09 to keep off the front page. If you come across this through an RSS feed or random searching and you have no idea why I'm riding my bike in my driveway on a perfectly nice day, just ignore it and move along.

Tri bike rear

Tri bike front

Road bike rear, front, side

It doesn't look like there's much if any play in my foot on the down-stroke on either my road or tri bike, in either my new (tri bike) or older (road bike) shoes. It does look to me that my right knee is coming in towards the top tube. I've noticed that while I'm riding as well.

I have no idea if my road bike position is good or not. I've been on the road bike more the last few weeks as my tri bike was in the shop.

Notes: Apparently my driveway isn't level side to side, so the trainer is rocking a bit more than normal in the tri bike videos. I fixed that for the road bike video.

More notes: It also seems that going from iPhoto to iMovie to Blogger makes the video super small.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I've been a little down lately and a tiny bit stressed. That's mostly due to people constantly asking if I'm stressed about the wedding. The answer: "No, I'm not." The thought-but-not-spoken next sentence: "But you people constantly asking me is bugging the heck out of me." I've mentally been ready for my life with Hannah for a while now, the wedding is just a formality (albeit a very nice one, with God confirming what we already talked about).

With my brain a little out of whack, I keep flip flopping between extremes of what I should be doing right now. For example:

"I should get rid of my TV" vs. "I should add more movies to have at one time to my Netflix queue."

"I should buy a whole bunch of swimming stuff since I'm going to start swimming again" vs. "I should stick with the same beat up speedos I've had for the last few years... if you put enough of them on at once, they're not that sheer."

"I should buy a new bike" vs. "I should strip down my road bike to make it as simple as possible."

The true path that I'll take is, of course, the same that I've taken for the last few years: the most balanced one.

"I'll keep the TV, but continue to watch less and less of it."

"I'll replace my beat up swimsuits but hold off on any supercool stuff until I need it."

"I'll buy Hannah a bike."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Saved by China

Like many people, I've been watching oodles of Olympics. In addition to the random sports that I'd catch like table tennis and weightlifting, I was seeking out a few key sports: last week was swimming and rowing, the weekend into early this week was triathlon, and the last two nights have been open water swimming.

With all that swimming, I'm sure you noticed the super swim suits from Speedo (how could you not?). What you may not have noticed is the few other suits from other brands: TYR, Blue Seventy, Finis, and -- I think -- Arena. The Blue Seventy suit is the interesting one of the also-rans.

Blue Seventy started as a triathlon wetsuit company. Recently, they branched into "swimskins" -- a wetsuit-like suit that isn't anywhere near as buoyant and is designed for "non-wetsuit" events. It's FINA (the swimming governing body)-approved, and, as such, it's in the Olympics for those athletes that seemingly either couldn't get their hands on a Speedo LZR, or wanted to try something different to stand out.

In open water swimming (Olympic debut this year!), the race is a 10k. Blue Seventy, with their roots in triathlon, is the industry leader here, not Speedo.

One of the other wetsuit companies that also makes a swimskin is Xterra. I think there's a few of that companies' suits in the open water race. Since Blue Seventy is the Speedo of open water swimming, that makes Xterra the Blue Seventy in the sport. Ummm... yeah, that sort of makes sense.

To make a long story even longer, Xterra is offering a 50% discount on their entire product line, including their swimskin. It's a cool suit, and, with all the Olympians looking and going super fast, my gear lust (which I usually can keep under control) started to get the best of me.

I had the "purchase" screen up on my computer. My mouse was hovering over the button. Never mind that the Xterra suit is only designed for open water swimming -- it's so rigid and tight in the back that you can't bend over (that means no pool swimming: flip turns and dives are out) -- it's super cool and could genuinely give me a speed boost in those few events I do that don't allow a wetsuit. Never mind that I probably wouldn't use it for over a year. Never mind that, even at 50% off, it's still well over $100.

I happen to own an Xterra wetsuit that I bought in a similar sale this past spring. For reasons I can't explain, I went and put it on (I've yet to actually swim in it -- Texas is a little hot and the Passaic is a little gross in an illness-via-bacteria/virus/pollution-sort-of-way). After almost passing out (who stands around in a fully enclosed suit of neoprene in the middle of the summer inside a not particularly well-ventilated apartment? Me, of course.), I took the suit off and admired it's coolness.

It was then that I noticed where Xterra has their suits produced and that was the final push I needed to realize it was a bad purchase for me. So, thank you China for saving me $125+ on something I'd probably never wear and want a new version of in a year anyway.

It's still cool though.

Friday, August 15, 2008

You've got to be kidding me

Hannah and I raced in the Wool Capital Triathlon in San Angelo last weekend. We both did pretty well.

Now, I've lost races on the run. I've lost races on the bike. But I don't think I've ever placed well in a triathlon based on my swim performance. As luck would have it, after swimming less than three hours over the last 12 months, I finished 20th overall and third in my age group. 8th overall in the swim.

We started in the last wave, ten minutes behind the first wave. Since the bike is on an out and back course, I was able to count how many people were ahead of me. I counted 30. That means I passed about 100 people in the swim.

There are two ways to look at that. Either I'm a phenominal talent who just hasn't had my crack at the Olympic Trials or most people really can't swim well. There was one dude in one of those super expensive "swim skins" plodding along swimming breastroke.

Maybe -- instead of spending $300 on a suit -- the money would have been better spent on some swim lessons and a pair of these.

I dunno, I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 11, 2008


You always hear about how trapped everyone feels in small or remote towns, especially the angsty high school kids (actually, I think every angsty high school kid feels trapped, whether they’re in a small town or not). It’s always complaints about how there’s nothing to do, or no way to get out to where the excitement is.

But I feel trapped in the New York metro area. There’s excitement aplenty, but I’d trade it all to be able to ride my bike out my front door without the overwhelming fear of death by automobile or without having to stop every eighth of a mile at a traffic light. I don’t even live that close to the city. I couldn’t imagine trying to run or ride in New York. Maybe that’s why all the NYC triathletes I meet seem so surly.

I don’t know if it’s claustrophobia or what. In any event, I’ve taken to going to work earlier and earlier – not so that I can necessarily get more work done (which I do) – but so I can avoid the crowds. I walk two sides of a triangle so I can avoid Times Square (the hypotenuse route would take me right through it). I love my job, but unless they develop a way for me to teleport to work and then teleport home to Alaska, I’ll probably always feel cornered.

I’ve written this while stuck in Newark airport on a Friday evening. Technically I'm not actually trapped here -- I could always walk out -- but where could I go without missing my flight? My flight’s delayed, which means I’ll miss my connection, which means it’s another night in a hotel in Dallas before an early wake up for the earliest flight to San Angelo. All because the NYC area is too crowded. Even the skies are too crowded.

Clearly, I’ve become a grumpy crank well before my time. If I had a lawn, I’d be yelling at you to stay off it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My moment of glory... missed

I raced in the Brigantine sprint tri on Saturday and did really well, especially as I felt I didn't run to my potential (of course, I might have been overestimating my potential).

It turns out I got third in my age group (of 33) and 52 overall (of about 450). Naturally, I missed my moment of triumph as I was sitting on my friend's front lawn drinking a beer. We decided to stroll over to the awards ceremony to get the free food they always offer and clap for the people who won things. When we arrived they were on the 35-39 age group (they count up in awards ceremonies).

I only realized I got an age group podium place when I was looking at the results taped on a nearby van. I read my time and overall place and then figured I'd see how many people in my age group beat me. I counted to two over and over again, before I gave up and asked the race director the names of the top three guys in my age group.

I then got to rummage around in a box for my medal. Ahhh, the glory of placing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The rest of the weekend

While volunteering at the IM and registering for next year were the main points of our trip to Lake Placid last weekend, Hannah and I also took the time to wander around.

On Saturday we went for a hike to the top of Mt. Hurricane. We hadn't planned that in advance -- a few weeks ago I picked up a map of the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks (one of four or five maps for the whole park -- it's big) -- we just looked at the map and decided that was as good a trail as any. There are so many trails up there that it would probably take years to get to them all... and then we'd have to get one of the other maps and start all over in a new section.

The hike was tough but not killer. Lots of scrambling over rocks and crossing some bogs (remember all that rain I mentioned last time?). Despite a mostly overcast day, we got some decent views at the top.
I used to think that I photograph terribly, but in looking over all the pictures, I think it's actually the fault of the photographer. There were probably 15 pictures of me from the hike and these two are the best of the bunch.

Obviously, this is me about to do my Tyrannosaurus Rex impression. Why she didn't wait to capture the moment in it's glory, I don't know.

I suppose this one isn't so bad, although right before, a hawk had landed on my shoulder and a bear was eating out of my hand. Again, bad timing on Hannah's part.

But contrast the shots of me with this one of Hannah (I only took three, all superbly excellent). Clearly, I'm a much more talented photographer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I'm in

After volunteering in the pouring rain at Sunday's race and getting in line Monday morning at 5:45, I'm all signed up for the '09 Ironman in Lake Placid.

The volunteering was a lot more enjoyable than I expected it to be. Hannah and I handed out water bottles for over six hours to lots of soaked, frozen and exhausted -- but mostly appreciative -- athletes.

The weather was absolutely miserable. It started raining about ten minutes into the race and didn't let up all day. What was somewhat shocking was how many people either didn't prepare for the bad weather, or chose to forgo warmer clothing. High 60s/low 70s in the rain is not ideal weather for a sleeveless tri top and shorts. I wonder how many people blew up their races by not taking the time to dress warmer.

We did see a number of people wearing their special needs bags on lap two of the bike, which was probably a smart, last resort thing to do.

It's always neat to see this, even if I've never actually seen it live.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Big Plan

On Thursday night, Hannah is flying up from Texas. On Friday morning, we're driving to Lake Placid to volunteer for this year's Ironman.

On Monday, I'll be in line bright and early to sign up for the 2009 race. That may not seem too exciting to you, but it is to me. I've been saying that I wouldn't return to IM until I knew I could achieve the fitness I need for a breakthrough race. All that happened this year -- much quicker than I thought.

I've been laying the groundwork. Next year will be a big year.

In case you're wondering, no I didn't post that entry in August of '07, although I did write it then.

Of course, there's always the possibility that despite volunteering and lining up super early, the race might fill before I can sign up. I've been trying to tell myself it's not a big deal if that happens. There are other races out there.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My buddy

Despite great weather, I spent most of the weekend indoors on my bike trainer.

On Saturday, after a night spent throwing up (it had nothing to do with the quality of my brother's play that I went to see on Friday; more likely, it was a result of the bar RDM and I went to before the show -- either the food, beer or Red Sox paraphernalia), I opted to ride my bike indoors on my trainer. If I was going to get sick again, I didn't want to be 20 miles away from my car.

I figured, "No worries. I'll get a decent ride outside tomorrow." But my trainer had another trick up it's sleeve. Twenty minutes into a ride that started at the Watchung Reservation (I stopped by on my way home from church in New Hope), my seat post started to slip. Normally, I'm used to my knee tapping my chest while I ride, but that's when I'm on my tribike and I'm leaning forward over my aerobars. It's not supposed to happen when I'm sitting up on my road bike. I think I might have been more comfortable on a BMX bike. Since my trainer had slyly removed my multitool from my seatbag, I had to stop when I came around past the car.

So, after an 8-mile run, it was back to the apartment for another afternoon with the trainer.

My trainer. Seen from three exciting angles, each conveying the thrill of riding your bike without actually going anywhere or seeing anything interesting.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I love the Olympics

Say what you want about commercialism and politics, but I still love the Olympics.

I've never seen any greater drama.

Or more genuine excitement.

And this is only the trials.

Also, I'd like to thank NBC for streaming everything live on the Internet. I'm actually looking forward to their coverage for the first time.

You know, every once and a while I delude myself into thinking that I could make a swimming trials qualifying time if I dropped everything in my life and focused on training. Then I look at the times of the slowest people racing. So maybe, if I dropped everything in my life and focused on training, I might be able to make the women's qualifying time... assuming, of course, that they made that cut slower by about 10%.

Ah well, a man can dream... ummm... of being a fast woman.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Just like riding a bike

On Sunday I rowed in a double with my friend Ian at a masters race in Princeton. I've done about five hours of rowing over the past three years, so I expected this to not be much fun (while still being fun, of course).

But my expectations changed dramatically when I learned we'd be in the same race as another friend from my Nereid rowing days who is now rowing for a different club in north Jersey. I had never lost to this other friend in anything rowing-related, and I wasn't about to let the fact that I don't row anymore stand in my way.

I'm happy to report that I continued to keep my unbeaten streak alive.

Witness the bruising we inflicted on my rival (while simultaneously ignoring the fact that I edited out the results for the two crews that beat us):

Mutual friends were asking if my rival knew about our rivalry, to which I replied, "Of course not."

If we had lost, I would have congratulated my opponent for a well-won race, and would have made sure to mention that my partner and I hadn't trained together and in fact, I don't even care about rowing, seeing as how I'm into triathlon now and all. I probably would also have pointed out how much I've been travelling and how that almost definitely had an effect on my performance. I'd also have mentioned that I had to borrow somebody else's oars, because, as we all know, oars are highly personalized -- my oars used to have blue grips; these had yellow.

We won though, so I gave my friend a wave, said, "Good race," and proceeded to row away, content in my smug superiority, however misplaced.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Super Mystery Race Revealed!

The big race for me for this season is the Wool Capital Olympic Distance Triathlon in San Angelo. That's not so much of a shocker, seeing has how it's one of only two triathlons in town (and the other was just announced the other day). It's not a huge race by any means, but I'm planning to go as fast as I can. I'd like to try to grab an age group top three, but based on my other races in San Angelo, that might be more a result of who does (or doesn't) show up on race day.

But wait, there's more! Super mystery race part II was such a mystery that I didn't know I was going to sign up for it. I'll be doing the Brigantine Sprint Tri in south Jersey the week before the Wool Capital. Technically, I guess that means it's super mystery race part zero or one-half. I'll be hard pressed to even walk near the podium at this race, let alone get on it -- it's that deep a field.

But wait, there's still more! Super mystery race part -1 was so much of a mystery that I forgot about it. Hannah and I ran in the Run in the Sun 8k in San Angelo this past week. It also served as the Texas 8k state championships. I figure the reason San Angelo received the honor for hosting the 8k championships is because no one else bothers -- could there be a more obscure distance than 8k? That said, I've raced more 8ks in my life than any other distance. That probably says something about my own obscurity.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Uh oh

I did a MAP test this morning. Despite the heat, it turned out pretty good.

MAP stands for Maximum Aerobic Pace. At least, that's the definition I use. There are some variations on the exact terms, but the meaning is the same. In my case, the test is three miles on the track with a heart rate cap (153 for me). The objective isn't to go fast, it's to understand your aerobic pace -- how "fast" you can go without generating lactate (as in lactic acid, not breast milk).

There are various formulas to get that HR cap, but most of them point to 152-154 for me. The important thing isn't to get the exact scientifically perfected HR formula, rather, it's to find something that works and test it repeatedly.

I'd probably be able to track the trend better if I tested every month, but with my limited training time, I prefer to get a regular run in instead of "losing" a session testing every four weeks.

Here are the results from the four tests I've done since I started up training after Lake Placid last fall.

So that's cool. I'm not exactly sure what this means for my race capability, but it's kind of exciting. Consistent training does make you fitter. Who knew?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Heat Part II: It Gets Hotter

As a well-timed (or awful-timed, depending on your point of view) follow up to my last post, I found my breaking point: whatever today was at 4:00 p.m. in East Rutherford, NJ. (Edit: 94 degrees, 101 degrees with the heat index, 44% humidity).

Worst run in a long, long time. Heat rash, headache, churning stomach...