Monday, November 22, 2010

We made beer

That title isn't some strange euphemism for getting drunk; we genuinely made our own beer.

Our neighbor is an experienced home brewer and after hanging out with him enough, it's hard not to get the urge to try it yourself. Luckily (for me), our neighbor is also used to helping people out, so he walked me and some other folks through the steps a few weeks ago (Hannah was away on "Teach a Friend to Brew" Day -- apparently a real thing).

We ended up with just shy of two cases of Scottish 70 Shilling Ale. I should clarify that I was attempting to make Scottish 70 Shilling, the end result wasn't just some fortuitous byproduct of "well, let's throw this stuff together and see what happens." We were short a couple bottles worth because my physics were off and I didn't have the primary and secondary fermentation carboys at appropriate heights. Ah well, live and learn. Our neighbor was nice enough to let us use his carbonation system to bottle everything, which let us cut about two weeks out of the conditioning process. Basically, we had drinkable beer eight days after starting.
Since San Angelo stopped recycling glass about five months ago, this let us put some of the bottles we've been stockpiling since the summer to good use.

The beer was/is pretty good. I'm not just saying that because it was homemade. Well, I am saying that because it's homemade, but other people have been polite enough to not spit it back in my face or get sick when they try it, so I'll take that as a compliment.

This past weekend, Hannah got to be more directly involved and basically made the whole thing herself -- an oatmeal stout. It's doing it's thing in the garage right now. "It's thing" means making a huge mess during the fermentation process. Last time I wasn't prepared for the bubble-over so I had to spend a good chunk of time scrubbing the floor. This time I put the fermenter in a plastic tub to make the clean up easier. My sister-in-law was concerned that the brewing process was similar to making meth. Luckily for my house, that's not the case, as I assuredly would have blown everything up by now.

Since the first round, I've also straightened up the garage to keep things better organized. There wasn't much risk of contamination of any kind since nothing can get in the fermenters, but sticky, oozy things and bike parts don't necessarily go great together. Or, more accurately, they do go great together, but I prefer to keep them apart.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thoughts from Austin 70.3

I should clarify that title: these are my thoughts about the race; the race itself did not have any thoughts (that it shared with me anyway).

I'm not really going to go into the boring details of my heart rate, watts and pace for the race, as they're not that compelling for the majority of folks who read this blog (all .5 of you).

Here's a quick recap though:
  • I swam with the front group in my wave and hung with them despite a few surges on the leader's part. This is the first time I ever tried to go with the fast guys in a big race and not just start out steady and build into the race. Things only fell apart when we rolled into the wave ahead of us and our pack disintegrated. I swam the rest solid, finishing fairly high in the overall.
  • Just past five miles into the bike there's a sharp right turn that immediately goes into a steep little hill. I hadn't previewed the course the day before, so I had no idea about the hill. Needless to say, I dropped my chain and had to get off my bike to fix it (and to avoid falling over). When I tried to get going again, I couldn't clip my right foot in. It turned out that I had broken my cleat when I stepped off the bike. So, I rode the next 49+ miles at a lower effort to keep my foot on the pedal. Still PRed the distance though.
  • I had gotten over my grumpiness from the bike early enough by focusing on having a good run. It sure wasn't a land speed record, but it was the fastest I've ever run in a half ironman. I came within 10 seconds of even-splitting the two loops, mostly with a very uncomfortable back half. I moved myself up a good ways in my age group with that effort.
  • Mishaps or not, I still went the fastest I've ever gone over a half ironman; with my previous best time on a pancake-flat course in south Jersey in the early spring. Austin was hot and hilly, not a pancake-flat course in south Jersey.

So what did I learn?
  • I can swim with the big dogs -- at least those in the AG ranks -- without detonating myself.
  • I should always take the time to preview the course if I want to do well. No more "surprise" hills.
  • I can still race well relative to myself despite setbacks. I knew I was never really in the hunt for a real AG placing -- my bike and run aren't anywhere near the leaders. But, there is some potential there; I just need to find the race that the real fast guys all skip.

What's up next?
Not much actually. I've got a couple local running races between now and the end of the year. Then it's a matter of picking a race for early spring: big event and attempt to PR or smaller event to race for placing (I was only half kidding about avoiding the fast guys, my fragile ego can only handle so much whupping).

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I spent most of the day yesterday yammering on about the Ironman World Championships. While I usually get sort of excited around the race, I think this year had more yammering than usual. Hannah knew what to expect though and let me wander off to the computer throughout the day to check in on the race's progress.

I think a big part of the excitement I was experiencing was because I know people that were racing there -- a bunch of people at that; many of whom I've actually met in person. Having a personal interest made the race that much more compelling.

What's also interesting is I have no desire AT ALL to go to the big show in Hawaii. Putting aside the fact that qualification is little more than a pipe dream, if I were to somehow qualify, I think I'd turn the slot down. I can completely understand the appeal of Kona to 99.99% of triathletes, but it's not a draw for me.

I used to think the same thing about 70.3 Worlds in Clearwater, Florida. Not only do I have less interest in visiting Florida in November than I do in visiting Kona in October, but the course would be the absolute worst place for me to race well. Unless I somehow pack on 10 pounds of muscle in my quads, I don't have the juice to be competitive in a pancake-flat half ironman.

Honestly, this is all just my roundabout way of saying I don't like palm trees.

However, now that 70.3 Worlds are moving to Nevada, I just might have an interest in dreaming about something a little bigger.

...Of course, there's the little fact that I'm about an hour outside of qualification speed... someday... maybe.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I'm in the middle of my first wave of exams this semester. I'm hesitant to comment in any detail on the ones I've already taken because I haven't received all the grades back, but at this point I can say I'm more than a little frustrated with my performance. I still haven't gotten over my "B = bad" mentality, which makes me really nervous if I didn't even hit that standard. Maybe that's a good thing overall, but it certainly leads to some low self-esteem days.

At least I know I'm putting in some good work and I'm retaining a ton of (actually useful for my new career) knowledge, which is more than can be said for some of the other students I encounter. I think I mentioned that I picked up a job in the tutoring center on campus, where I tutor Human Anatomy... and little bit of Physiology if no one else is available. As part of that job I also run directed study sessions for the lab portion of anatomy. The first lecture exam for anatomy was last week and I was beset with anxious students, most of whom hadn't opened the text book.

One girl in particular was completely freaked out. She came into the tutor center asking for some help preparing for the exam. I said no problem and asked what she wanted to focus on. She replied that she needed help with everything. When I asked to see her notes and she had to rummage around in her bag and a couple different notebooks to find what she had, I began to fully grasp her anxiety about the upcoming test.

In addition to the texts, the professor provides tons of material to help students learn the material; the most useful is a list of open-ended questions that cover all the material for upcoming exam. A number of those questions are used verbatim on the exam itself (albeit as multiple-choice) -- so theoretically, just by going over this worksheet, you will know at least five of the exam questions. Needless to say, she hadn't even looked at it, so we spent about two hours trying to work our way through that.

Towards the end of our tutoring session, she wanted to know how I thought she'd do on the exam. I wanted to say, "You're screwed," but I thought that wasn't very inspirational.

Instead, I told her to do what she could on this test and not stress out about the outcome. The caveat to that was starting the day after the exam, she needed to completely change her study habits -- complete organized notes, all materials filled out even if they seem redundant (more than anything, I think redundancy is the key to learning anatomy) and regular attendance at tutoring or study sessions. With three more exams and a comprehensive final that can replace the lowest grade, there's no reason to fail (F fail, not Nick "B" fail).

I have no idea how her exam turned out or if she changed her study habits because she never showed up again. Maybe she'll be back the day before the next exam.

On the flipside of that, I have a bunch of students that come to every study session that I lead. The material is basically the same in each session, but they use that as time to consistently reinforce what they know and to get answers to what they don't remember. Smart folks.

Unrelated to my educational pursuits, we recently had some work done on the backyard in the form of a new patio. There was an interminable time (almost eight weeks!) where we were left with an enormous dirt pit right outside the back door. I don't exactly understand if that was the result of the heat wave preventing cement pouring or a disorganized contractor (why dig the hole during a heat wave if you know you won't be able to pour the cement until it cools off?), but I do know that only one member of the househould was happy with the hole:

It's all well and good now though; everything is done. The dude went out to check his refined domain the other day -- likely disappointed about the lack of dirt pit.

As you can see, we're a little short on patio furniture. The plan right now is to expand the current motif by picking up a couple blow-up pool rafts and scattering them around.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where have I been and where am I going?

I realize I sort of fell off the face of the blogEarth after my last post, so I'll give a quick summary of my last couple weeks.

Like I mentioned, I raced the Wool Capital tri. Apparently, less-than-optimal fitness for me means I can still crack the top 10 (9th overall) in a regional race. Despite that, I still couldn't get top three in my age group. Who knew the 30-34 age group was competitive? I was happy though. I had a really solid swim (second overall for individual competitors, I think I was top five when you put relay swimmers in the mix). My bike is where I expected it to be, which is perfectly adequate. My run was so-so, but again, that was to be expected. I ran solid, but had no real oomph.

After the swim I was in the unique position of being in fifth out of the water -- and that's after starting in the second wave. The three guys that caught me in my AG (four total guys passed me) all did so in the back half of the bike. Then they proceeded to run low/mid-6s compared to my high 7s, so the outcome was never in doubt. I did run with the women's winner for a while and she honestly kept me moving along at a good clip. I probably would have shut it down if not for her. On the back half of the run I moved away and finished 7th across the line, but two guys from the sub-30 AGs had a faster time.

And with that, I'm done racing for a little bit. I've deliberately let my training slide while I was focusing on school for the summer session, but if I don't get back on it soon, I'll be in trouble come Longhorn 70.3. And I'd like to do well there (relative to myself). If I enjoy the race, it'll probably be my big event for 2011.

Hannah and I went to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico last week. We wanted a trip where we could be outside, but with a limited budget, a short timeframe and the temperature consistently in the triple digits, we were stumped on what to do.

Then it hit me... caves are cool (both literally and figuratively)! We spent a couple days exploring the caves (guided of course; I think we'd still be "exploring" them otherwise). Because this was a whirlwind trip, I naturally forgot the camera, so you'll just have to visit the park yourself to experience the caves' grandeur.

I do have a picture from my drive to Idaho last month though:

What, no good? Okay, here's another of the Budweiser plant in Colorado:

Admittedly, these were taken during the drive, so the quality of any given picture was a crapshoot. I'll leave you with one that came out okay:

That's Montana. Not Texas.

School starts up again next week. On Thursday, I start an actual paying job (tutoring anatomy and physiology). Not that I don't have a job already, but this one will help contribute a little more directly to my planned career.

Friday, August 06, 2010


I had lofty goals to not only earn an A in my summer session Physiology class, but also to rip it up at the local olympic distance triathlon this weekend. I'm not exactly sure where things went off track, but I suspect it was right around the time I got a B (81%) on the first exam -- seven days into the class -- despite spending loads of time studying.

The nature of the class (four months of material condensed into five weeks) meant that I would have very little chance to "recover" -- so the triathlon goal went out the window, as did my training. I pulled up my grade going into the final test (91 and 90 on the next two exams, respectively), but that meant I needed a 96 or higher to get the A. Since the last exam was going to cover the most material (whole muscle, cardiac, respiratory and urinary physiology), the odds of me cracking the A were unlikely.

So, I was faced with a (admittedly not life-altering) decision: what to do? I only needed to "not fail" to hold my B. Do I phone it in as far as studying and settle for whatever I get? Honestly, that was never going to happen. I "gave it" and came up with A on the test (91 again). Unfortunately, I was not able to bend the laws of basic mathematics and wrapped up the class with a B average.

For whatever reason, I've been pretty bummed since then. I don't know when getting a B started equating to failing in my mind... perhaps if I earned the A, I'd understand the chemistry of my brain a little better...

I'm still going to show up at this race tomorrow, although the outcome isn't really in doubt. I'll do what I can on the day and I may even try the "never works but sure is fun to try" strategy of "go 'til you blow." On oly is too long to nail on less-than-optimal fitness, but we'll see what happens. If anything I'll have a rocking swim.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Key Words (or, The Soundtrack to My IM Run, as Programmed by the '80s)

I mentioned in my last post that I used key words throughout my ironman marathon. I don't remember where I first heard of using them (Assault on Lake Casitas probably), but we definitely used them throughout my rowing days.

I'm not a sports psychologist, so don't hold me to this definition, but basically key words as I use them are triggers for focusing on something specific or making a change in race pace/effort. I trained with them for the last four months, so when I say them, I know what to do.

I used six key words throughout my IM run. For me, that's a manageable number. With the exception of two, they're based on songs -- none of which are particularly intense -- and that's for a reason. For whatever reason, three of the songs are from the '80s. Clearly I try to keep things a little light, even when I'm focused on a goal. I left my glowering intensity behind with collegiate rowing races (where we lost more than we won) -- it was in a more relaxed atmosphere that we usually came through big.

So here they are:

Light, Quick
I used both of these throughout the run, but specifically in the first two hours. Neither relate to speed for me, they're reminders throughout the run to try for an effortless feel and to keep my leg turnover high.

Man in Motion
I said this phrase at the one hour mark. It's intent is to focus on keeping things rolling -- not pushing the pace, just reaffirm my constant profess. Ignoring the movie (which I've never seen), this is an awesome song, especially if you know the real reason it was written.

I said this at two hours down. The song came up on my ipod in the middle of a tough training run when things weren't going so well. For whatever reason it relaxed me then. Saying it at about the halfway point of the race gets me to relax and keep things steady.

I save this for the 10k-to-go mark. Basically, it means it's time to go. It's cheesy, but it comes from my favorite movie from when I was a kid. And it's a good song! (...if you like transforming robots...) Truthfully, while its purpose is to get me to change gears, it's also to remind me that I do these things for fun... and you can't get more fun than giant, transforming robots. (Skip ahead to about the 1:00 mark if you don't want the exciting build-up from the movie).

Big Casino
The only non-'80s song that I use as a key word. Where "Dare" means start leaning on it, "Big Casino" means drop the hammer. In CdA I saved it for the last two miles, although in training I practiced dropping it in anywhere in the last 10k. Granted, "dropping the hammer" for me didn't set any land speed records in this race, but effort was at close to max.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Ironman Coeur d'Alene

I'm going to share loads from my two week excursion up to, in and back from northwest Idaho, but I figured I'd start with the quick race summary to get that out of the way.

I arrived in town on Thursday morning, poked around the expo, registered and then went out to drive the bike course. I'm glad I took the time to scope out the course, otherwise I would have been really disheartened to arrive at the hills for the first time on race day and discover that they were all bigger than I had anticipated. We do have some steep rollers in the San Angelo area, but everything in CdA is twice as long and just as steep.

Once that was done I "checked in" to where we were staying. Through weird and happy circumstance, my friend Sam (who now lives in San Francisco) had mentioned that his boss, Tom, lives in Coeur d'Alene. Tom and his wife Pam were incredibly generous and let Hannah and me stay at their place for the race. Sam also flew up to spectate and volunteer.

After delays, both Hannah and my folks made it into town.

The Day
Hannah, me and Sam before the start

Race morning was uneventful, except for misplacing Hannah and my wetsuit before the start (they were together, but not with me... d'oh!). Everything worked out and I got down to the swim in time.

It wasn't until about 15 seconds before the cannon went off that I realized I was starting way wide. Ultimately, I missed the draft of the faster guys that I could have hung with and instead rolled through with an easy/steady effort. I checked my watch at the first turn buoy and saw that it was blank (I had taken it to a shop the day before to get the battery replaced but the waterproof seal didn't hold up). I had no idea how the swim had gone or where I was -- I only learned later that I popped out just under an hour and in 76th place.

I saw Hannah as I was exiting transition and swapped watches with her so I'd have a sense of my time on the course.

The bike went like it usually does with everyone passing me in the first loop. This time however, because I was riding smarter (thank you power meter), I was actually able to come back through a bunch of those people on the second loop. I rolled in around 6:26, changed and was off for the run.

For the last three IM attempts, I've wanted to go sub-12. That didn't happen at either of my Lake Placid races, but I had done the work and had paced the first parts of my race well enough that I was in a position to make it happen.

Short summary: the run was tough, but doable. I faded a bit in the middle, mostly because I was worried I was running at a pace I couldn't sustain (that's where the heart rate info would have helped). I came through mile 20 a few minutes past 11 hours and knew that the only way I was going to make my goal was through a strong push.

I had been practicing using key words for the six months leading into my race -- I'll write something up on those in a later post. As I had practiced, at 10k to go, I clicked in and ramped up the effort. Granted, my speed change was relative (I wasn't setting any records here), but it was enough to get the job done: 4:22 marathon and an 11:58:58 overall.

Overall it was a great day. Like usual, things went wrong. But this was the first long course race where I've been able to stay calm throughout the day and lift effort at the end. For that, I credit Hannah's patience in letting me get out the door to train, as well as Gordo's and the Endurance Corner crew's coaching.

I'll wrap this up with a quick photo. I was fortunate enough to meet up with some of the other Endurance Corner athletes in the days before the race. And man, there are some fast dudes (and ladies) on this team.
One of these things is not like the other. From right: Vince Matteo - Kona qualifier, 10th in his AG, 72nd overall; Kevin Coady - Kona qualifier, 3rd in his AG, 22nd overall (and ran a 3:10 marathon!); some other guy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's On

...well, it'll be "on" in a couple hours. You can follow along on -- bib # 418.

Looking forward to a good day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Texas is big

Just a quite update on my travels to Coeur d'Alene: I left yesterday around noon and drove the 400+ miles northwest up into that little bit of Texas that looks like the handle of a pan... I think there's a name for it, but I can't quite remember. Early last evening I rolled into The Land of Enchantment. I think the only really difference between northwest Texas and northeast New Mexico is that Texas has wind farms and New Mexico just has wind.

Today I'm driving up to Boulder where I'll see Bobby McGee speak as part of the Endurance Corner training camp. On Wednesday morning I'll join the campers for an open water swim and then I'll get back on the road.

On a side note, the iPad has been great to travel with, especially since we have one of those accessory keyboards. The weird thing is reactively reaching for the mouse and then remembering to touch the screen itself. I hope to figure out how to get some photos in these road trip entries, even if they're poor quality camera-phone pics.

On to Colorado.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I decided to compare this year's training volume to last year's lead up to Ironman Lake Placid. The races are almost exactly a month apart, so it was easy enough to match up the six months building into each race. I was disheartened to learn that I had actually done more training last year.

I thought, "How could this be?" I'm solid in the water, my cycling efforts are more consistent across long workouts (no huge drop off at the end) and I'm running a lot faster with less effort. I'm rarely wiped out for extended periods after big days or long runs like in previous years. Overall, I just feel fitter too. How could I be training less?

The good thing about properly recorded training logs is that I can look back on the efforts I was doing -- and that's what calmed me down. While I trained more in '09, almost all of it was at a much lower intensity. That's not to say I'm drilling it now, but last year, the bulk of my work was "easy" efforts with occasional periods of steady, moderately hard and hard (and close to equal doses of all of those three effort levels).

This year, I've only gone "easy" during warmup and on recovery days. There hasn't been too much high end -- the majority has been solid, steady efforts; coincidentally, that's the effort I want to race IM. Funny how those things work out. So, if I did this right, I'll be racing the way I've trained all year, instead of hanging on for dear life halfway through the run.

Ultimately, my race day performance in Coeur d'Alene will reveal if I am actually faster. Until then, all I can do is follow along with the plan, rest up and get ready to execute on the day.

I've got a few more solid workouts spaced out over the coming 10 days, then it's off to Idaho by way of Amarillo, Boulder and a meandering trip through Wyoming and Montana. I'm hoping to stop for a little while in Bozeman and see if it's all I've heard it to be.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Will work for sugar

With Ironman Coeur d'Alene scheduled during finals, I'm not taking any classes in the first summer session. Aside from training and a few side jobs I have going, I was concerned about sitting around the house for hours on end each day. I volunteered to help out the owner of the Eola School Brewery with some odd jobs for a few weeks.

The main job we're doing is adding a new roof to the school. My role is primarily moving stuff, holding stuff and getting yelled at (it's just like building something with my dad!) -- I've elected to stay away from the welder and hammer drill. Unfortunately, in this case "moving stuff" typically means hoisting steel c purlins and roofing sheets up 30 feet to the top of the building. Mark (the owner) is also particular about how things get done, which for some reason means he doesn't like pulleys or anything to give a mechanical advantage -- it's just two ropes and a pair of vise grips.

But things are coming along. Next time, I'll remember to bring my phone to the top of the roof to take a picture.

When I say I volunteered to help, I mean he is actually paying me, but not in any legitimate currency (I refused). Instead, I asked if he could pay me in maltodextrin -- something I use in my energy drinks to increase the caloric content. Normally that stuff is fairly expensive when it's marketed as "sports nutrition." But since he's a brewer, he has access to larger, cheaper quantities.

That said, I was still surprised when he presented me with my "payment" -- 50 pounds worth.

It might be hard for you to process how big a sack that is. For scale, here's a typical water bottle in which I add two or three ounces.

Hannah thinks we're going to be moving houses with this stuff. I think she's wrong. I think we're going to end up moving two houses with this stuff... if the ants don't get to it first.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A is for Anatomy and American History

...strangely enough, A is also for General Psychology and Math of Finance.

That's one semester down and things went pretty well. I'm not naive enough to think that past success is a definite indicator of future results, but I do recognize what worked from a study perspective to be able to use it to my advantage in the coming semesters. Unlike endurance sport, there's no advantage to going continuously "faster" in academics -- I'll settle for repeating my results.

I attribute my semester's success to three things:
  • Setting my day up like I was still at work: Between 8 a.m. and about 5 p.m., if I wasn't in class I was studying, reading or doing homework. That allowed me to get my "work" done and then have time to train, hang out with Hannah, etc. The only variation to this was on Tuesday, when I'd do my long bike ride during the day. That also freed up the weekend a bit.
  • Consistency: This goes hand in hand with my first point. I studied every day (except Saturday). Oddly, that actually helped my ability to recall information. Who knew? (I sure didn't the first go round 12 years ago).
  • Setting up a team and taking advantage of experts: Just like in sports, I set myself up with a good team and sought out mentors to help me along. My anatomy lab partner and I worked our way to the top two grades on the final (incidentally, the only two As on that test) and two of the 12 overall As in the class. I also took every opportunity to get additional help that was offered from professors and supplemental instruction.

I didn't intend to brag (really!) -- I just found it interesting that successful habits translate across disciplines. Again, who knew that stuff would work?

Thursday, May 06, 2010


This past weekend, Hannah installed a dishwasher. I dug a hole (no, not metaphorically). Can you tell which one of us has the engineering degree?

While there's a possibility that I could write a fascinating story about my hole, the practicality of that effort would be in question.

I'm sad to say I don't have a picture of my hole. We went and put a tree in it. And around that tree-filled whole we had some curbing added. So, between the dishwasher and front yard landscaping, you can guess how we've been spending our weekends.

The dishwasher -- part of my riveting series of home appliance photography

The tree-filled hole, complete with artistic looming shadow photographer.

On a potentially more interesting note, the semester is about to wrap up. I don't want to jinx anything going into finals, so I'll hold off on writing about how everything is going/went.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

...and that's why I wear a helmet

I know I've been lacking in my blog posting. I'm hoping to turn that around soon.

I crashed on my bike today. I came around a turn to find the entire lane covered in gravel (at least half an inch deep). I'm not particularly good at bike-handling on smooth roads, so you can imagine the challenge I faced when the smooth road stopped being road. I think I stayed upright for about three seconds before my bike came out from under me.

There's a quarry nearby, so I suspect that one of the trucks didn't have its tailgate locked. The gravel was just dumped for about 10 feet.

Short summary: Nothing's broken (on me or my bike). My homemade energy bars made for a nice cushion, but my right forearm is a little gross. I have some exciting bruising to look forward to as well.

I have a race this weekend and depending on how much it hurts my arm when I'm in the aero position on my tri bike, I may end up riding my road bike instead. So now I've got a built-in excuse in case I don't race well. And if I do race well, I've got a built-in reason for gloating.

On the plus side, my helmet works!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I ended my last post talking about me being inefficient in my days. Some things you should understand about me:

  • My natural inclination is to lay around on the couch and be bored.

  • If I don't keep structure in my life, I default to #1. I don't need or want concrete structure -- chicken wire is probably fine. I just need some general daily boundaries that I can adjust if need be.

  • The TV and computer are a huge time-suck for me. Last year I weaned myself off TV. I'm not as good as I used to be, but even now, I only watch it at night and occasionally on weekends. On the other hand, the computer is where I waste a ton of my time. I went through a period earlier this year where I essentially stopped using the computer at home. That did wonders for my studying, but led to two problems:
    • I became incredibly boring. Since my access to news was Internet-based, removing the Internet from my life left me completely oblivious to the world outside of San Angelo.
    • I still had work (both school and other) that I needed to do on the computer -- that made me even more inefficient since I would deliberately make trips to the university to do online work there.

So, I've gone about building my chicken wire weekly life. Since Hannah has to get up for work, I get up with her. Three days a week that's because I have an 8 am class. The other two days it's easier to keep with the same routine. My studying and training are coming along nicely -- I have a pretty good schedule that I maintain. It's flexible enough that I can swap some time between the two on any given day and still feel like I'm getting the work done that I need to get done. Housework is about 70% to where I need it to be (Hannah may tell you it's at 25% where I need it to be, so I'm still working on that one).

As far as avoiding my giant time-waster -- the computer -- I still struggle. I'm good when I have a specific task to accomplish. I'm not so good when I've got some free time and I think, "Oh, I'll just check my e-mail or Facebook." Two hours later, when I'm watching some weird video on YouTube, I'll realize I just lost a chunk of my day just so I could wind up seeing David go to the dentist again. So, I'll take any tips on not letting my day get swallowed up by random web surfing.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Before I started back up at school, Hannah and I had discussed our expectations for my weekly "output." I was going to handle most of the day-to-day household work (cleaning, bills, keeping up the yard, food shopping and preparation, etc.), as well as maintaining a full (albeit it lighter) course load. I even toyed with the idea of getting a part-time job since I wouldn't have class on Tuesday and Thursday. I was also going to get crazy fit for my ironman, since I'd have so much free time compared to when I was working.

This plan was largely based on my memories of the amount of daily work I put in to get my initial degree, especially my junior and senior years.

Imagine my surprise to learn that school was tougher than I remembered. Or, more specifically, taking classes that fall outside my natural skill set is tougher than I remember. I'm doing well (high 90s average in Anatomy for example), but doing well requires a lot of effort on my part -- strangely enough, a "full course load" actually requires close to 40 hours a week of work (including classes). It also requires Hannah putting up with learning all sorts of things that I learn, mostly a result of me wandering around the house repeating stuff from my lectures.

For a while, I was a mental mess regarding my training. I was getting fitter, but I had a ton of self-imposed guilt about taking the time away to ride/run/whatever. That made my workouts agony since all I could think about was getting back home to either study or to take care of something I had said I'd do. A lot of time, that meant missed workouts. My coach helped straighten that out by simplifying my approach. I had the time in my week; I just needed to slow myself down and understand that if ironman is important to me this year (it is), then I should give it the time it deserves. The specifics of the training protocol would come later, but first I just needed to get out the door regularly.

So, we've had to reset our expectations. Now, many things get done consistently, but I need to set aside chunks of time to get bigger projects done; I can't just plug away at them gradually every day like previously thought. I'm sure that's partly due to the inconsistent nature of class schedules, but it's mostly due to inefficiencies in how I go about my days when I'm not in school. Not having a standard workday can sure throw things out of whack, especially if you have a propensity for laziness.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break

I appreciate it's been a while since I've written anything here (six weeks?!? Yeesh...) -- sorry about that. I've got a few things swirling around in my head that I'll catch everyone up on, especially now that it's spring break (wooo!! spring break!) and I've got some time to sort out the stuff I've been neglecting or deliberately putting off.

The first time I was in university, I never really had a true "Spring Break" experience. Instead, I traveled to Tennessee or Georgia for team training. Now that I'm reliving my college days, I thought I'd try for that genuine party atmosphere. Neither Hannah nor the cat appreciated being soaked with the hose, and the cat especially hated having to put on the t-shirt, so we scrapped my original plans and decided on a whirlwind travel weekend -- Fredricksburg on Friday night for some good beer, San Antonio on Saturday because I'd never been there, and Austin on Sunday to catch part of SXSW.

Apparently, I'll be having the same time of spring break that I did 10 years ago -- only this time it's triathlon training and my free time will be spent on yard work instead of hazing the freshmen rowers.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Mad genius

UPDATED: I just realized I left out an important ingredient for the Apple Walnut bar recipe. On the off chance that you rushed to the kitchen to make these and they ended up tasting gross or at best incredibly boring, it's because of this oversight. Sorry about that. I amended the recipe below.

I've come a long way since my initial foray into making my own energy bars. I think I've got a good handle on the process. Full disclosure: Hannah rarely eats any of them now, but I think that's a learned response from a couple not-so-good batches early on.

While I started by using recipes from Brendan Brazier's Thrive, I've deviated far enough that I feel fine sharing my current iterations on my blog. I've gone the Lara Bar route and have really pared down the ingredients. That makes for a smaller margin of error and -- I think -- a better taste.

Also inspired by Lara Bar, I just made a coffee-based bar, which is probably the single greatest-tasting thing I've ever created. I'll explain how I made that batch as well as one of my easy standards.

What you'll need:
- Food processor
- Flat surface (you can probably use your floor if it's clean enough... or a cutting board, whatever)
- Rolling pin
- Plastic wrap
- Knife
- Common sense

Apple Walnut
- 1 cup dates (You can use fresh dates, but I've found dried dates work better. Use the highest quality dates you can find. Buy them from the produce aisle, not the ones from the middle of the store.)
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 1 small apple, cored and peeled (I usually start with half the apple and depending on how dry everything is, add additional chunks of the apple as needed)
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed (I don't think this is essential, but since I'm still working my way through the package, I continue to use it.)
- 1 tbsp hemp protein (Like the flaxseed, this probably isn't essential, but it was expensive and I have half a container left, so I continue to use it. I don't recommend whey protein though; I've had bad experiences experimenting with that.)
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon

1) Add everything to the food processor and let it do its thing. Process longer for a smoother bar or shorter for more chunky.
2) Dump it all out on a cutting board (or your clean floor).
3) Form it into a flat brick, about an inch thick. This is where the rolling pin and plastic wrap come in. I don't even use the rolling pin anymore; I just cover the mass with plastic wrap and form it by hand. When you're done, you should have a long, flat sheet, about an inch thick and about three inches wide.
4) Cut it into bars. Everything may be moist and sticky. If really moist (that is, gooey), I'll put the bars on a baking sheet or wire rack and add them to the oven set really low (between 170 and 200 degrees). Then I let them dehydrate. I imagine a dehydrator would work just as well.
5) When everything's all done, wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer so they'll firm up even more and so they'll keep longer. You can probably leave them in a cupboard or in the fridge, but remember that cut fruit and room temperature don't go so well together for very long.

And now, the best thing ever:
Dark Chocolate Mocha
I think "mocha" actually means the combination of chocolate and coffee, so that name is probably redundantly redundant. How about Mocha Hazelnut?

And now, the best thing ever:
Dark Chocolate Mocha
Mocha Hazelnut
- 1 cup dates
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup (or less, I eyeball it) almonds
- 1/4 cup ground flaxseed (Definitely not necessary, but I had it out on the counter.)
- 1 tsp ground coffee (Use good stuff, not Folgers. I used the "San Angelo Blend" from Eggemeyers that we've had in our fridge for a few months.)
- 1/4 - 1/3 cup soft dark chocolate (I don't know the technical term for this. Basically, since I had no wet ingredients except for the dates, I slowly heated dark chocolate chips until they began to melt. I also tossed in some remaining raw carob chips I had in the cupboard.)

Follow all the steps from the Apple Walnut recipe, except start by processing the dates and all the dry ingredients, then gradually add the soft chocolate so it mixes evenly. Once mixed together, you can form it into bars as noted above.

So there you go. There are a couple other recipes I've played around with, the most successful of which is Ginger Pear. I'll write about another day when I get it closer in quality to the two from this post. I also recently gave one of Brendan Brazier's energy gel recipes a go. I'll share that debacle another day. I can't think of a more appropriate word to define "gel" than "chewy."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Swim Game #2 and Back to School (three weeks ago, but whatever)

The Endurance Corner crew is running another swim game. It's a little different than last time and I won't be swimming every day for the next two weeks, so there won't be regular boring updates with my daily workouts. Instead, there will be periodic boring updates. I'll get to the last two days down below.

More importantly, I guess it's worth writing about the fact that I took a major turn in my life recently: I left my good job at a good company to go back to school to become a nurse. There are a lot of reasons, but the shortest is that I didn't want to spend more time sitting behind a desk doing something I was very good at, but didn't find particularly enjoyable. The work was challenging and the people were great, but that's not enough for fulfillment. Assuming all goes according to plan, I'll have my BSN in a couple years.

I almost wore this shirt to my first day of classes: It wasn't deliberate; it was just at the top of the drawer. I had a pause and realized that might be too obvious.

And I'm not the oldest in all my classes -- just the ones Texas requires that Pennsylvania doesn't.

People keep asking me if it's weird trying to remember how I used to study. I'm lucky in that I have completely forgotten what I used to do. I was a horrible studier, so it's better to start off fresh. That means I actually take notes and read the textbook now.

On to the swimming:
This time I won't be going camp crazy trying to chase down the most volume. That's mainly because I'm just laying the swim game over what I (should be) doing in training right now if there was no camp. Not trying for the "win" because I'm working on my run/bike at the same time is also incredibly convenient since I'm nowhere near the swim fitness I had in November. If I'm not in the top bunch, I have my excuse all prepared: "Well, you see, I wasn't really trying" (just ignore the fact that had I been "trying," the results would be the same).

So what did I do in the pool yesterday and today?

Monday - 5500m as:
- 1000m mixed WU
- 2000m time trial (splits at each 400m: 6:18. 6:15, 6:20, 6:11, 5:55).
With the masters group:
- 400 easy
- 6x50 kick
- 2x (4x50, 2x75, 1x100)
- 6x (2x50, 2x25)
cool down

Today - 3300m:
- 250 WU (including 1x25m no breathing for bonus)
- 3000m straight (alternate 100IM, 150 free)
- 50 easy

Monday, January 18, 2010

My week as a layabout

My week of no real responsibilities (thank you Hannah) was really good. Sustainable in the long run? Of course not. But a week was definitely nice.

As I mentioned last time, I started off with a trail race in Bandera, Texas. To say it was hard and hilly is putting it mildly. But it was also a blast. I never really went ballistic and walked most of the inclines, so I was surprised with my overall placing (48th of 230+). I rolled in around 2:50 for the 25km race.

The guy I traveled with did go in with an agenda. Last year, he injured himself during the 50k so he was looking for a little vindication. And he sure got it. Not only did he finish, but he won his age group (50-59) and set the masters course record. His pace for the 50k was also faster than mine for the 25k. He's a speedy guy.

This past Monday, I loaded up the car and drove down to Big Bend National Park for the week. I got some rides and runs in, plus a whole bunch of walking. Mostly, I was moving easily or steadily when I wasn't laying down to sleep. A big part of that was because of the cold (22 degrees the first night -- up to 35 by the last night). Continuous motion is a good way to keep warm.

I forgot my camera off and on throughout the trip, but here's some of what I did get.

My nice campsite:

Here's a riveting video I shot at the bottom of the Window trail.

I learned later that my depth perception is off. When I said it looks like "100 feet or so to the bottom," I should have said a couple hundred.

Mexico. Only a few small steps across the river to freedom... from most of the freedoms I enjoy. I opted not to take a picture of the dude crossing from the other side. He walked back though.
View on the way up from the Rio Grande.
Me looking sort of rugged (the helmet helps that look):
The views in Big Bend are amazing. But sometimes it gets a little lonely:

If I remember right from the Ken Burns National Parks documentary, this guy did a lot of good and then ended up being a big jerk. We're not related (although I can be a jerk, I haven't done the "lot of good" yet).
View up the road to the Basin. I stayed on the other side of those mountains.
This fox was very patient with me, until I lifted my camera. Then I got fox butt.
The view on my last morning. It started snowing on my way out.

So, good trip. Next up: school starts on Wednesday.

Friday, January 08, 2010


This is a big week for me. Today is my last day as a paid communications professional. Tomorrow is my first day as a full-time, unpaid, unskilled, unremarkable athlete. I'll only hold that position for a week before my official title becomes "student" again. Note, that too will be an unpaid position (thank you savings and gainfully-employed wife).

I'm kicking off my week of athletic glory with a trail race in Bandera, Texas, about an hour north of San Antonio (two hours south of San Angelo). Over the last three weeks, I've prepared diligently for this race by running five times, three of which were in the last five days. It's a good thing I'm mildly fit and that I'm only doing the 25km option -- if need be, I can walk a good chunk of the 15 miles. Had I signed up for the 50km (as my friend encouraged me to), I suspect I'd be in trouble.

On Monday, partly to stay out of Hannah's way, but mostly to take advantage of my free time, I'll be heading to Big Bend National Park for a few days of cycling, running, hiking and sightseeing. While I am fit enough to run/hike 15 miles on Saturday, I'm not fit enough to fill my days with epic amounts of training, so I'm planning on a lot of sightseeing. Depending on how well I can handle camping in the cold, I'll stay for most of the week. I expect to come home with a clear head, ready to give up my highly lucrative athletic career and jump into school.