All posts by jank

One week of strong

So, I think that one of the really positive outtakes from “Muscle over 40” for me has been just a little more desire to be active. And this week’s “Fitness and Freshness” shows a pretty strong uptick:

I’m finally back to where I was at the beginning of April, when I stopped running for a while due to a gimp ankle. The ankle’s feeling much better.

Today was a day off. Originally, I thought I was going to study, but there’s some local drama going around, so my sleep game has been off. Plus, the kids went off to work and school, and Mrs J looked at me and said “Wanna go?”

“Yuh.” ;)

“OK”, she said, and tossed my running shoes at me. Let’s go.

Le. Sigh.

The run was strangely, strangely good. Which either means I’m about to break again, or that I may actually be getting better. Short run, just a couple miles.

After the run, it was on the bike again, down River Road, soaking in the light and air, and just kind of being joyous. It was weird being on River Road during the part of the day when most folks are working – most Saturdays and Sundays, it’s tons of “Always Wave at your fellow cyclists who you see out there on the road“. But this time, not so much. Like two other cyclists. On the other hand, the fishermen under the IH-95 bridge seemed pretty friendly, though Narragansett tallboys at 8 AM will do that for you.

Workout at the YMCA was humbling. Lessons learned:

    DOMS* is most definitely a thing
    60 year old ladies can kick my butt
    I have the upper body of a cyclist and the midsection of a football fan
  • RE: DOMS – I think it’s mostly the body saying “OK, I gave you the one day, but you really want to keep doing this?” But it had set in for certain this morning, mostly in the quads and glutes after doing the trap bar deadlifts on Wednesday. The run did a pretty good job of shaking it out, but still.
  • Re: 60 year old ladies – Today’s workout was mostly arms, but it also included a set on the squat machine. In which, when I got there, there was a fit 60 something woman saying “Just one more set”. Fine, I said, as I didn’t necessarily mind the recovery.
  • When she was done, I fiddled around trying to figure out the machine, thinking I would need to add some weight. Turns out, I didn’t have to to add an ounce. Woman was crushing it, and much like Mrs. Jank, could easily take me in a fair fight.
  • Re: My upper body – for the flys and the other arm exercises, I used a pathetic amount of weight as judged by the portion of the stack that I moved. Luckily, the woman from earlier was finished after the squat machine, so she didn’t stick around to kick sand in my face.
  • Oldest kid works at the Y. He’d been up at 4 and out of the house at 4:30 in order to open the pool for the 5 AM swimmers. So, as I was finishing up, he was getting off, so we headed downtown for coffee and bagels. Really proud of the guy he’s growing into; happy to have him home for the summer.
  • On the way out, I realized that I’d carried my new camera like 50 miles at this point without snapping any snaps. So, I parked the bike outside Harp and Hound.
  • Probably should have stayed there for 3 hours.
  • Muscle after 40, Week 1, Day 2

    Cut out of work early today. Beautiful day, so instead of just stoping at the gym on my way home, I went home first, and rode the bike to the Y.

    What a time to be alive! The ride was awesome, but it usually is – down hill from the house, then a cruise down River Road, through downtown, and stop at the Y. The Mystic Y is about 6 months redone, and it is amazeballs. Lots of natural light, and, a decent number of people. Felt good to be using something other than the pool.

    Regardless, today’s activity was harder than Day 1. Not sure if it was residual tired from Monday, or if I used weights that were too heavy, but I’m pretty sure that it really was some muscle groups I don’t usually hit. Doesn’t matter, because I got ‘er done.

    Rode home up the other side of the river, stopped at Kelley’s Pace for another ankle brace. I think the leg is mostly good now, but i’m going to keep using the brace as a prophylactic probably through the end of the calendar year.

    Pshew. Run tomorrow and Friday, rest Saturday, and then do the flyaway leg of the Vermont City Marathon on Sunday. Life is hard.

    Muscle After 40 – Week 1, Day 1

    One of the glories of being a reasonably successful and financially secure professional is that I can indulge in buying bad books that generally sit on the bedside table collecting cat hair.

    Latest case in point might end up being Muscle After 40: Build Your Best Body Ever in Your 40s and Beyond. It came in over the weekend while I was on the bike, and I did the first workout on Monday. Initial impressions:

    1. I dig the book. There’s 5 whole pages of introduction, and then it’s into the first set of workouts. Good layout, spiral bound so it’s easy to use in the gym.
    2. The illustrations are awesome. Each workout has a pretty good illustration of the exercises to do, and a space RIGHT THERE to write your reps.
    3. Bryan Krahn’s instructions are top notch – no real technical words, pretty much just “pick a weight you can lift for a complete set” with guides as to when you’ll tire easily, and when you can probably lift more than you think.
    4. He doesn’t really repeat himself much. I’ve thought for a while that most fitness and business books were a 10 page paper repeated 20 times to pad out a book that will have the first and last chapters read after someone buys it in the airport. Muscle after 40 fits this description, except it doesn’t repeat and doesn’t waste the pages in the middle, instead providing a useful log.

    The 12 week program is divided into 3 parts: First, it’s “Full Body”, which I think is mostly getting slugs like me into the bodybuilding parts of the gym. Second is Upper/Lower, where the workouts will either focus on the upper body or the lower body. Finally, it’s “Push-Pull”, which focuses on the whole body again, ‘cept better.

    First workout was in the books. I kinda screwed up and did it as a circuit instead of straight sets – still sweated. My guess is that I’m probably best just resting today and then going to the second day.

    Workout was good. Eating was not good – little bit of stress snacking in the AM. Weight is down slightly from where I’m redrawing my peak, but still 20 lbs above where I consider myself fat but healthy.

    “Rolling” Hills?

    Spring may finally have arrived in southern New England, though, as has been characteristic the last few years, we’ve gone straight from a disappointing winter into early summer, apparently somewhere between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.

    Friday, I finally said “Y’know what? I’m a cyclist. Why aren’t I riding my bike more?”

    Answering, I said “Uh, ’cause it’s cold-ish, and may rain?”

    “But I live in New England. Possibly the only place on the planet with weather that can make a person whinier about the weather than old England. There are places where it is much, much warmer. And places where it is much, much colder. Sure, it’s not 75 and sunny all the time, but who wants to put up with Californians? Point is, you could ride outside almost 330 days of the year and be in no risk of the weather killing you. On the other 30 days, you can almost certainly get in a few miles of XC skiing. Bad weather is an entering argument, but shape means you can treasure the amazeballs days. And you can’t get shape by whining.”

    “Self, you make an excellent point. Giddyup.”

    Friday, I was back from a trip to our Nation’s capital, trodding the halls of power, and weaving my way among the throngs of teenagers from the heartland out in DC to see that socialism can actually build a pretty good lifestyle; that walkable cities with transit are pretty stinking cool, and that robust public support for the arts and humanities provides a really interesting way to spend a few days wandering among the collective artifacts that have shaped our history, our art, our sense of self, and our technology.

    Mostly, tho, it looked like almost any middle school outing – the adults pretending that they had a shred of cool; the children actively ignoring anyone over 18, the vendors trying desperately to pry hard earned spending money out of the kids’ wallets in exchange for red, white, and blue trinkets made in China.

    But the runs was good. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that without hesitation; this week felt like a breakthrough. Cranking out 6 on Sunday, and hopefully running one of the legs of the Vermont City Marathon Relay next weekend. Woot.

    Enough running, tho. What I really want to talk about is the bike.

    There are few things quite so transcendent as the first few rides in the spring, regardless of one’s state of training coming out of a deep winter. The combination of the turn from grey of deep winter, to the brown of mud and very early spring, to the first hints of color from the daffodils and tulips, the first greens from the skunk cabbage and elephants’ ears and fiddleheads. The sounds – the first spring peepers; the hoot of the owls, the deeper ribbets of the leopard and bull frogs, and the terrifying screeching of the fisher cats. The smells – from the damp of melting ice and snow, the earth as it starts to wake, the dead skunk that’s been under a snow pile or frozen mid-puetrificaiton for six months, and finally the flowers and grasses, and blooming trees – amazing.

    Then there’s the transition of bikes – last ride on the winter bike, with the bullet proof tires to ensure that cinders don’t end your ride prematurely with a tire change in freezing rain (or a call to a significant other, more likely). The first time when you, against better judgement, take out the summer bike, with the good wheels and tires out on roads that might not be completely salt and cinder free and feel again the joy of a beautiful bike under your seat…

    I’d made that first ride on the good bike back in April – we had a couple weeks of steady rain, with one 40 degree sunny day that fell on a weekend. I could tell that the fitness wasn’t where I want it to be, but the bike absolutely did not let down.

    Fast forward back to this weekend. Friday, my afternoon meetings were cancelled, and, well, I cashed in some hard earned leave in order to ride my bike around Newport.

    The ride was, actually pretty good – breezy and cool, but not cold. Shorts, wool jersey, and wool undershirt kept me pretty comfy. I’ve been letting my hair grow – managing bangs that stuck out under my helmet was more of a PITA than I anticipated; but partly, I didn’t want to stop in order to rearrange my helmet.

    Having ridden around Newport for a while, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading the winds, and figuring if I should do Ocean Drive counterclockwise or clockwise. Today was a counterclockwise day, which meant I started out by heading through downtown. It’s the start of tourist season, but the road improvements aren’t yet finished, so closures and construction made it a bear.

    I’ll also never quite understand why the middle of downtown is a two-lane, dead straight, divided highway for like half a mile, with only two pedestrian crossings. This is not shared-use friendly design. Were I on the Newport town council, I’d open every meeting by proposing cutting this down to two lanes, and relclaiming the other half for mixed-use commercial/residential to help out with the bike-able/transit housing shortage for both Salve Regina and the NAVSTA.

    Anyway, fought against the wind until I hit Brenton Point State Park, then crushed it eastbound on Ocean Ave. The one gripe I had was the dude on the e-bike who stayed JUST out of touch – wished I’d caught him to have a draft on the way back.

    When I hit the end of Ocean Drive, I thought about going back, but a mile into the wind on legs that aren’t yet accustomed to riding, and I turned around, rode past the Gilded Age 1.0 mansions, wishing that the robber barons of today had the common courtesy to place their unbalanced gains on such public display, and took the short way back home. 21 miles and happy.

    Saturday was like the actual day of summer that we’re going to get this year, apparently. Fortunately, our troop had enough adults at the Zombie Camporee that I was able to break free for some miles. Reminded me of EVERYTHING i love about riding in eastern CT. Highlights:

    • The corner of Plains Road and Under the Mountain Road in Franklin – no real sign, just two roads coming together in a wood, in which case I couldn’t tell which one was the less traveled…
    • Robinson Hill Road – Nutmeggers didn’t know sarcasm – if a road has “Hill” in the name, it’s going to be a hill. That said, Robinson Hill Road is extreme even for this rule. I rolled into it at about 10 miles, so should have been plenty warmed up, and should have been able to crush this. More later
    • Jerusalem Road – On the east bank of the Shetucket River. One of the quintessential New England roads – forest, farms, homes. Two lanes, next to no traffic, turns and whoop-de-doo hills. Short climbs to crush – man.
    • A “town” every 5 miles or so, which is great to catch the breath.

    Chris Case had a pretty good bit capturing much of this in a reprint at the end of this month’s VeloNews. You get to read about it, I get to live it.

    Anyway, enough. Got three weeks to finish up school for this quarter, and, as always, I’m way behind the eight ball.

    Minor win

    OK, so Nike+ told me to run four times this week. Two down, two days of weekend to go. I’m not going to declare success on that yet, though the two runs I did do were pretty satisfying. Legs felt good, mileage is where it should be, ankle hasn’t felt blown out since.

    The minor win I’ll take this week is that I’m 5/7 since last weekend on at least logging breakfast, lunch, and snack meals, including two days where I even logged through supper. Most of those days I was near my target calorie deficit to put me near one pound/week loss; which was OK. Yesterday, we stopped for beers and nachos after work, but I kinda skimped on supper, though I did get a small cheeseburger with #2 kid on his way back from track.

    So, not a perfect week eating, but the goal of getting tracking going was accomplished, and I’m on track for being reliable with exercise. I’ll take a narrow win, declare victory. Tea and medals to follow.

    30 days to go

    There’s two touchstones in my running year: the New Haven 20K on Labor Day, and the Vermont City Marathon on Memorial Day. They’ve kinda become family holy days of obligation – really no thought as to what we’re doing those days except for heading to Burlington or New Haven.

    The last couple years, we’ve done the race as a relay, since Melissa’s pretty much targeted fall marathons, and, well, I’ve kinda gotten fat and slow (working on that). Twice with Missy and I splitting the two person relay, and once with the whole family splitting the 5 legs. This year’s another relay; not sure for sure what leg I’m running, but it’ll be one of the 10K or so legs.

    I’m pretty confident I can crunch out 10K – the lungs are good, the legs are OK, and I think I’ve fixed my ankle. The thing that’s sticking in my head, though is three seconds per mile. Confession: I’m as fat as I’ve been in years. I thought I was fat when I was at 180 pounds; I’ve been hovering around 200 for the last year. So, my 10 to 11 minute miles should be 9 to 10 minute miles if I were where I was two years ago, and should be 8 to 9 minute miles if I could get down to a non-overweight BMI.

    Le sigh.

    One of the things that’s interesting to me is that my weight gain has really corresponded with letting the blog slide. Maybe it’s the accountability; maybe it’s just that I’ve been busy with other things.

    Regardless, today was a good day – did a Nike+ benchmark, and the legs felt good. I’ll declare victory and move on.

    Some things change, some things don’t.

    So, this is where I was last year. And, not much has changed in a year. I checked MyFitnessPal, and my weight’s been between 195 and 200 the whole time.

    Actually – a decent amount has changed – I do have a consistent year of running and biking back under my belt; I’ve transitioned into a new position that I love, and where I’m getting to develop some really cool stuff, and I launched a kid successfully to college. So, yeah – not too shabby.

    Fitness, I guess, is better, which is nice.

    May’s coming up, and I guess I just wanted to put myself on report, get motivated, and try to use May to do a couple things:

    • Shift my internal clock: Early to bed, early to rise
    • Start working my core: Melissa did this, and it’s been transformative for her
    • Get back to the consistency I had over the winter – from the Runner’s World Run Streak (#RWRS)
    • Get control on what I’m eating

    The last one’s the kicker – I’m pretty sure I’ve got a good engine under some flab, just need to burn it off. And I also think snacks is probably 85% of the flab, though I could probably stand to skip the fries at lunch more often (Fries, I think, should always be considered a snack)

    50 days, 100 miles is the goal

    Days: 1/50

    Mileage: 4/100

    The last couple of years, my little brother (in Oklahoma) and me (in New England) have been participating in the Runner’s World Run Streak (#RWRunStreak), in that, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, we’ve headed out and ran at least one mile each day. Last year, we stretched it to two miles/day, and that felt kinda right.

    Well, I was doin’ some cypherin’ this morning, and it hit me that New Year’s Day is exactly 50 days from today. And, I’m more than a little behind on my run goal for the year (not having rescoped goals when I tweaked my ankle at the Vermont City Marathon Relay), so the idea that, if I add 100 miles by the end of the calendar year, I’ll still be looking pretty good – end up at about 550 miles for the year – not quite the 600 I’d hoped*, but close enough that 3 months of spotty running means it’s a doable goal for the next year.

    Flags20181112.jpg

    Anyway, today was an AMAZING run day. Started with the scout troop dressing downtown Mystic with flags for Veterans’ Day; boxed up food for town social services at church, and got to take the dog for a stroll in the sunshine with my lovely wife.

    Brunch: Cider Donut Toad-in-a-donut-hole.

    IMG_2228.jpg

    Yes, that is a cider donut, split down the middle, and an egg fried in each donut-hole. I’ve been doing this for a couple years with stale donuts from the cider mill down the way, and I’m still not sure if I like it. But, I do know there’s a there-there, even if it’s retiring to sell food at the county fair once I figure out how to make this delicious.

    Oh, and I knocked off a beautiful four miler after an after-brunch nap:

    I should do a “review”, but one of the things that’s been transformational for me has been going back to a Suunto watch – the heart rate band display has been a GREAT way for me to keep easy runs easy, so I don’t break myself.

    * Consolation is that I should easily clear my bike and swim goals…

    Home Stretch

    Big year since the last post way back in May. The short version is that I’m finally starting to feel whatever my “normal” is supposed to be. Ran the Tarzan Brown race again this year, and pretty comfortably finished the 5.5 miles under 50 minutes. I was a little discouraged about that, until I went back into Strava and found out that, even when I was feeling “strong”, my previous best was 47 minutes. Granted, that’s 30 seconds/mile faster, but I’m also carrying about 25 more pounds than I was for that race.

    So, I’m fat, but the legs are back.

    Lovely wife and I went for a possible last ride yesterday. Temperatures were in the 40’s, but the ride was awesome when we were in the sun and out of the wind.

    But, boy – the wind. I set two strava PRs and matched another best effort, because winter was coming down from Canada with a vengeance.

    Main goal of the ride was to get out to the Stonington Farmers’ Market in the Velvet Mill. We hadn’t been together for a couple months, so it was good to get back there. Picked up a beautiful ciabatta, shrimp and amazing scallops, and cheese curds.

    The ride home was pretty non-eventful. We stayed off Rt 1 and mostly stayed in the woods and hills to stay out of the wind. Coffee stop, and home to toasted bread and cheese. Amazing.

    Oh, and this was supper:

    Haze Grey and What do I weigh?

    We’d been having a decent bout of spring in New England, largely because I spent a big chunk of the last two weeks on travel. So, of course, it’s got to be nice here. So nice, in fact, that the wife and kids put fans in the windows, and the leaves came out.

    Today? Not so much. Friday? Beautiful. This morning? Grey. Not even the grey of a TV tuned to an unused channel, but the grey of limbo. Even the new leaves seemed subdued. You can thank Troop 76, because we’re camping this weekend, and our motto is “Troop 76 percent chance of rain”, with the records to back that up.

    I had crap to do first thing in the morning, and didn’t get out to ride until about lunch, at which time the grey and misty morning had turned into grey and drizzly if not actually rainy. But, I saddled up the Cannondale, thinking that maybe it was raining because I’d been a New England bike apostate by riding in the basement in front of Zwift all winter, instead of doing my penance in March and April on the salt bike, bundled up against the cold and slush.

    I’d like to say transcendence set in during the ride. But I can’t – the ride was cold and wet; the cars sent up spray, and I can’t even pretend to have “early season fitness”; this ride was fueled by guilt and what few dad watts I’ve got left (I think that teenage children may actually drain dad watts).

    Neither can i say I was sad to ride today. There was value in the cold rain, and reality in the painful joy of hot water on cold flesh. I still can ride, I still love where I ride, and maybe not all things good are joyful.

    The tale of the scale hasn’t been good. I haven’t gained weight; neither have I lost any. Fitness seems to be coming back, which is good. I don’t think I’m going to die at the Vermont City Marathon relay in three weeks.

    And the campout is awesome. The frogs are louder than the scouts; and letting boys self-organize occasionally yields amazing stuff – like the campstove donuts that were embellished with the addition of girl scout cookies and marshmallows. 6 hours of laughter brings light to absolutely any day. Though I do hope that the sun comes out tomorrow.