Turkey Trot 2017

Banged out another Turkey Trot at the Mystic YMCA. We’re at a weird place in our lives – boys are 17 and 14, oldest leaves for college next year. No company at Thanksgiving this year, interesting spot.

Melissa’s not running this year. Which is an amazing thing – she’s qualified for Boston last Sunday at Philly. She is radiant – it’s a weight off her shoulders that she’s been carrying through several unsuccessful attempts and struggles with injury.

Perfect day – 30, sunny, no wind. The race is PACKED – it’s gone from a small group waiting for a guy with a megaphone to say “go” to a “Girls on the Run” arch at the start/finish. Nice t-shirts today; a comfy cotton-poly blend that will actually get worn.

I don’t see the boys after the start – J is running with some of his high school XC buddies, and N – well, like usual, he’s off in his own world. I started too far back in the scrum – took almost a mile to get some running space; but that’s OK.

About the first mile, I watch the leaders run back the other way – M, who’s at a service academy; D, who’s going to captain the high school XC team next year, with C, who’s going to be crushing school records when he gets to HS next fall hot on his heels. It’s kind of fun, since I can remember all of these guys as tiny kids pumped to make it to the mile turn around; then as elementary school kids finishing the 5K for the first time. Now they’re burning it up before turkey.

I don’t dip this year, since I’m still phleghmy from having the flu last weekend; but J does, so I loan him the

Autumn is a time for new starts

It’s been a … well, pretty good year. I’m still not quite back from 2016’s episode with Lyme disease, but I’m pretty good for consistency since about September. The summer was a little more sporadic than I hoped; partially driven by work and non-work activities; partially driven by a little bit of slack.

My current battle is to catch up with my (very modest) Strava goals for 2017 – 1,200 miles cycling; 500 miles running; and 50Kyds swimming. The Cycling is pretty much in the bag – 150 miles to go; if I were really ambitious, I’d knock that off between Turkey Day and the Sunday after Thanksgiving – it looks like the weather should be pretty nice in New England; not many horses are going to be pulling the sleigh through the white and drifting snow.

Swimming: I’m not quite sure if I’ll nail this one. I set it pretty low – 1K/week, but took a hiatus from actually swimming from about April through September. I need to do about 2.5K/week, which, for me is really only two half hour sessions; but that’s consistency I haven’t been able to muster so far. I think I can nail it, but this will be the first one that I’ll let slide of the three.

The challenge that I’m pining my hopes on is hitting the running goal. I set it at 500 miles for the year – a relatively easy 10 miles / week, but let things slide while finishing grad school, traveling a bunch for work, and trying to keep up with life. August, September, and October were all good months, with mileage at or over 50 miles for the month; November, I’m behind – sitting about 28 miles with 10 days left in the month. Strava tells me I’ve got 100 miles left for the year, which, on one hand is pretty easy – only 2.5 miles/day; on the other hand, it’s doubling my mileage for November and hitting a PB for mileage in December.

Which brings me back to one of the things that really got me going last year: The Runner’s World Run Streak. I can’t tell you HOW MUCH it meant to me to have this going with my brother last year – really pulled me through a rough time physically and psychologically. So, I’m back in this year, but I’m setting a personal baseline at 2 miles/day, and I’m starting today. Not quite the 2.5/day that I need to make my annual goals, but more than the bare minimum.

The second modification I’m making is that I’m going for #100DaysOfNewYear, starting 23 November and going through Saturday, 3 March 2018. For this year, my rules are as follows:

  1. Until 31 December, the streak is completely a run streak.
  2. After 1 January, the streak can take four forms: Run, Bike, Swim, or Nike Training Club workout.
  3. Run is defined as: At least a mile (2 miles from 23 Nov through 31 December) during which a sweat is broken and a heart rate of at least 120 is obtained for a minute.
  4. Bike is defined as at least 10 miles or one hour. Either on the road, or trail, or Zwift, or a crappy stationary bike in a smelly hotel gym.
  5. Swim is defined as 1,000 yards, any stroke.
  6. NTC is defined as at least 15 minutes of some workout. Admittedly, this is a cop-out, as there are some gentle stretching routines, but, I’ve become convinced that there’s something to a strong core.

Anyone else in?

Vermont City Marathon 2017 Pre-Game

Back up in Burlington for another Vermont City Marathon. This time it’s different.

I’ve been going through a rebuilding since coming down with lyme disease last summer. Coupled with starting to be a “man of a certain age”, with a fondness for beer and cheese – well, let’s just say that I think my midlife crisis has centered on my midsection. Had a minor surgery a week ago to fix a minor nag I’ve had for a while; got cleared back on the bike and sneakers this week.

Fitness? Seems all over the place. I had a great streak with the Runner’s World daily challenge, and then a pretty good run with Zwift over the winter. Spring hit, and I’ve been tied up with work and school.

I am not a bad-a$$

Like to the point, where I, a grown man, do not feel comfortable writing even PG swear words on my personal blog.

I also, despite having kept a running blog for well over a decade now, am a really, really crappy runner. I weigh too much, blow off training too much, and am kind of more interested in thinking about running and biking and swimming than in actually doing any of those things. There’s cool gear, and I can have cheese and beer while I look at gear mags and read other people’s blogs if I don’t waste all that time actually running, biking, or swimming.

Despite that, I do occasionally make it out the door, or down into the basement (definately NOT a “pain cave”) and work up a sweat. Today was no exception.

There are some days, though, that do make me feel like a bad-A$$, even if i can’t bring myself to write it out. Today was one of those days.

I can run in the hot. I can run in the snow. I can really run in the mid-60’s and dry. I can run really slowly when it’s hot and humid, if I’m in the shade. But, hands-down, my running nemesis is cold and wet.

Fortunately, I live in coastal New England, so it’s rarely cold and wet … wait…

Today – 40 and drizzling at lunch. But, I made it out the door, did my 3 miles and survived. I’d thought it was slightly warmer, so I skipped the hat and gloves. Took 2 miles to feel my fingers again. Awesome.

The run’s done, now. Which is AWESOME, and which lets me feel a little like a bad-A$$ for an hour or so. Until I try to push myself out the door again tommorrow.

Cycling Podcasts, 2017 Edition

So, Oomloop Het Newsbladt is up this weekend. Is it road season yet?

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’ve got a long-ish commute, and, while being in New England means that summer days are beautiful and almost endless, winter evenings are cold, damp, and almost endless, too, so I spend a lot of time in the basement on the trainer watching Zwift go by and pretending I’m actually fit.

Being an American, road bike racing isn’t something that was easy to come by when I was a kid in the ’80s. It was on the radar, since Greg “LeMan” LeMonde was wrecking stuff in Europe, and it’s pretty easy to get on the American news cycle by going and doing anything better than Frenchmen. My first real exposure to cycling was during Armstrong’s post-cancer run and the 7 Tours de France which have been stricken from the history.

Podcasts have played a huge part in my appreciation of Pro Cycling – they’ve filled in the appreciation for the non-Grand-Tour races, non-American teams, and the sport in general. Cillian Kelly deserves a special shout for filling the history gap.

Podcasting about pro bike races is pretty darn effective in a way that it’s not for other sports. For other sports, it’s tough to discern between similar plays if you haven’t seen them – a double play can be turned dozens of different ways, but to really capture each one requires hundreds of words. Most sports commentary is best done with video. Pictures of cycling, though, are pretty similar (unless it’s wrecks).

With a bike race, however, much of the action is actually hidden from the video. I gladly watch hours of shots of the peleton flying past countryside around the world; but it’s tough to pick out How The Race Was Won ™ over a multi-hour race. Different people see different things; and there’s 180 different stories – racers with different schedules, different goals, different skills; any one of whom can be the key to a given race.

Which is why cycling podcasts are the absolute bomb-diggity. The ones I’ll list here have a couple of common threads. Generally, the ones I like also come from people whose writing I also really like – good writers and good speakers. I think all of the ones I’m listing here are group podcasts – see previous paragraph about different people seeing different things. And finally, all of the ones I like are produced by cyclists themselves. Cycling is unique in that it’s much easier to relate to – get out and ride a bike. As soon as you see someone else riding, try to catch them, and it’s a race. That’s kind of reductionist, i know, but when was the last time most of the folks watching the NFL pulled together a pickup game?

So, kind of in order, here’s my six (6) recommendations for cycling podcasts to follow.

  • The Cycling Podcast: Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie, Daniel Friebe, and Orla Chennaoui are all fixtures in the British cycling press. Weekly show, monthly show focusing on women’s cycling, and a “Friends of the Podcast” program which gets you 11 extra episodes (in depth reporting) for about $12/year. Daily shows from the Grand Tours. TCP strikes a great balance between on-the-ground reporting, personalities, and direct relationships to the current pro-riders. They’re a little Sky-heavy, but, eh?
  • The Recon Ride: Dane Cash and Cosmo Catalano (Who I’ve plugged twice already this post) have been doing a pre-Pro Tour race podcast for about a year. They got picked up by CyclingNews this spring. Solid format – race review, team review, and predictions; my only gripe is that they don’t do post-race stuff.
  • The Slow Ride Podcast: This one is a new one for me. I picked them up after US Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford this year thanks to their capturing Jeremy Hyde’s deraileur failure. Only a couple episodes in, but they’ve got the chemistry/rider criteria down really well.
  • The Velocast: The first podcast I paid money for, and haven’t regretted a dime. Scott and John are cranky old Scotsmen. Occasionally get on the ground, but fill the time well. Daily Grand Tour shows, weekly shows otherwise, and an amazing “This Week In Cycling History” with Cillian Kelly.
  • Velonews: Velonews is probably the best US magazine covering bike racing; the crew shines in the podcast. Weekly. They’ve also got a good training/racing bit that comes out weekly. I really hope the magazine can hang on.
  • The Paceline: This podcast doesn’t have a whole lot of pro race content, but I mention it because Elden Nelson (now a fixture on RKP) and Patrick Brady have entertained me with their writing for years, and the podcast has an occasional nugget.

And, while it doesn’t count as a podcast, I’ll recommend GCN as a great source of trainer videos, race reports, and bike culture.

Pshew. Blogging is hard. What did I miss?

Looking forward to 2017, piling on 2016

So, I hate to pile on 2016, but, for purposes of me staying fit, it kind of sucked.

The year got off to a good start – overweight but had stuff to work with. My overall goal of about 30 minutes/day of actual exercise (not what passes for exercise on the Apple Watch) was more or less on-track. May was a low point, but I think i’d tweaked my knee.

Then, I found a tick after a scout camping trip. Went into the doc for antibiotic prophylaxis, and she told me that I’d start seeing symptoms in about 6 weeks if I had Lyme. Sure enough, Lyme it was. Started in early July while I was on travel, and laid me out. Felt like crap until I got on antibiotics; then haven’t been right since.

Anyhoo, it’s been a long, long road back (though not enough of it actually ON the road). During Thanksgiving, though, I caught Runner’s World Run Streak post, and thought “Hey, why not?” A (semi-sober) tweet at my little brother and it was on.

It’d be a lie to say that I crushed all 39 of those runs – a couple of them were phoned in, but runs nonetheless. Vast majority were <1.5 miles, but they got done.

Interestingly, when New Year’s rolled around, and when I did my last mile at 1:40 AM in shorts and freezing rain (my typo was “freeing rain”), I woke up later that same day and thought “Maybe I’m not quite done. The weather was good, so I went out and got in a decent ride on my favorite loop to really kick off the new year. Since then, I’ve been still going, despite being back to work, the winter kicking in in earnest, and my general lazy nature.

Weight’s still a huge issue. I’m ashamed to admit where I am, but I believe I may be fatter than at any point in this blog’s history. But, with a great bout of stomach flu hitting Chez Jank this weekend, I may have turned the corner the right way.

So, what are the #streak2017 rules?

  • Do something every day to get the heart rate up. 1 mile running is ~150 calories for me, so that’s the general ground rule
  • One mile walking =/= one mile running. It just isn’t. (At least not for me – though back in August it would have counted)
  • For cycling, I’m setting 2,000 watt-minutes as my mile equivalent. 2,000 w-min means that I take the watts I put out and multiply that by the number of minutes I ride. So, 20 minutes at 100 watts (which is zone 2-3 for me, pretty easy to breathe and talk but not like strolling), or 10 minutes at 200 watts (which is zone 4 – breathing really hard and starting to get uncomfortable) would count. When the weather gets nice, it’ll be a 3 mile outside equivalent).
  • Swimming is 1,000 yards, again, about 20 minutes. 500 yards seems too short (10 there and back laps in a 25 yd pool barely breaks a sweat), and I can’t really figure out where to draw the line between 500 and 1,000. Maybe 800 with swimming twice as hard as running? Dunno. Willing to talk.
  • In any case, I’m pretty psyched. 8 days in and still going (plus the previous 39, so – wow! 47 days). Feeling good. I think that as I’m getting older, keeping moving actually does better for me than taking rest days, provided that the “rest” days are really easy, easy days.

    Zwiftly Getting Largzer

    Bleh.

    Or more accurately Blerch.

    Yep, that pasty bum has gotten me down for the last month or so, and the onset of winter hasn’t helped much. Nor has recovery from Lyme, or changing positions at work, or coming into the last third of the current graduate degree, or Melissa being in AWESOME shape and about to crush the Houston Marathon.

    But, I think I’ve found at least part of the solution.

    Last winter, I invested in a Kinetic Road Machine, and put in a pretty decent two months on TrainerRoad. I really kind of liked the structure, and loved having NO excuses not to train, as the weather is always about 65 and New England sunny in my basement. Plus, I could throw on “Victory at Sea” and catch up on some propaganda.

    Trainerroad was good – really good. The workouts were great, and the structure was pretty nice. Reasonably priced; great value. I thought I was going to be back this winter.

    But, earlier this month, Strava reminded me that I got a free 2 months of Zwift since I’ve been wasting money on Strava Premium for the last couple of years (Wasting since I’m obviously not using it; really enjoy the service). So, I figured I’d go ahead and try it.

    Getting set up in Zwift was about as close to painless as I’ve had. They’ve got a great iOS app that I installed on my phone that uses the pairings I’ve already got for the bluetooth cadence, heart rate, and Kinetic trainer with the Strava app, and a pretty lightweight application that runs on the 8 year old Mac Mini I’ve got in the basement to run Plex.

    They’ve also added workouts – I ran the FTP test tonight:

    The workouts look almost right for me- enough to chose from; enough plans that I’ll stay interested, and already tied in. The thing that’s missing that Trainerroad had, is detailed control over the training plan, and the ability to select a plan, and have no thought necessary when logging in to workout – the right one is already selected.

    Anyway, all is good. Miss you, Blog World.

    Learning to Love Moving (again)

    First Saturday of fall, and New England has her moxie back – cold and damp, despite having been hot and humid 10 days ago. Nike+ run club had “speed” work on the calendar in the form of 5 x 400m repeats. So, wanting to get really back in the spin of things, I decided that N and I should ride to the track, run, and then get coffee. So, not really a pure run, not a pure ride, but something in the middle.

    So, with fall being upon us, many local riders have hung up the wheels and won’t be seen again until Memorial Day. Making sure to emphasize the change of seasons, Mother Nature made sure it was grey and cold; I don’t think that we passed another rider all day.

    OnOurWay

    The sky threatened more rain, but that was mostly just bluster.

    Grey

    I’ve been riding a lot this summer with #2 son. He’d asked for a real bike for his birthday, and we hooked him up. That, plus me being down a notch this year with Lyme has given us a great chance to ride. At the end of track season last year, he got diagnosed with exercise induced asthma, got an inhaler (we’ve filed the TUE), and has been kicking butt and taking names. To the point where his word cloud project at school was focused on cycling.

    WordCloud

    So, I kind of strong-armed him into doing a bike-run-bike with me Saturday morning, despite the fact that most of his friends were sitting in their basements playing Density, or some such other game. Bike of choice was the Nashbar Cross bike, since it’s got a rack on the back where I could strap my runners. The ride up to the high school is one of my favorites; hill up to Flanders right out of the gate from the house; long, downhill-ish straight, and one little kicker before rolling into the school. Not a lot of traffic, and a good warmup.

    At the track, we stopped, changed into the sneakers, and watched the JV crew gear up for a game. For the 400 repeats, I got a little confused by the Nike+ app until I figured it out. There’s no warmup period; rather, the app starts with the first 400. Press go, and it starts timing the interval. Press stop after the first interval, and the recovery timer starts, then press go for the next interval. Didn’t figure that out for a while, possibly due to my heart trying to escape my throat.

    Yay.Track

    So, I’m not much of a speed guy. I’m not much of an endurance guy either any more, but I’ve never really claimed to be a speed guy. I’ve dutifully avoided the track for most of my life, with the exception of twice a year during my Navy days running the Physical Readiness Test – 12 laps a year, like it or not. Today, I got to relive why.

    The first 400 kind of didn’t count, since it wasn’t until about 150 in that I realized the Nike+ app had started the rep as soon as I started the workout. N started at the same time as me, and had opened up about 50 meters by the time I realized I was supposed to be going hard, but I caught him by the end of the first 400.

    After the first 400, I’d kind of jogged it while fiddling with my phone, and was surprised when the distance started counting up again, indicating that I’d started it. So, I ran that one slightly faster, mostly out of surprise.

    After that one, my lungs were trying to climb up out of my throat, probably because that’s the easier way to get oxygen into them, so I decided to extend my recovery period to a whole easy lap in between 400 efforts. N caught up to me again, looked like he was having fun, and said “How many more?” “Only three”, I said, and we crossed the start, and he was off.

    For the first half a lap, I thought I could catch him on the back stretch, but the lungs were gasping, I started to taste half-chewed dates (pre-outing breakfast) in my throat, and I decided just to hold on until I was done. Which I did, and after that lap, decided that, not only would i extend the rest interval to a whole lap, but that it was OK if I walked that lap.

    The last two 400’s were tough, and I was thrilled to be walking at the end of them. So, N talked XC strategy with a couple of the high school runners who were doing an 800s workout, and I pretended to take my time getting my bike shoes back on. Then, back to the bike!

    Our high school backs up to an awesome bit of state park land with some of the finest two track in the Northeast. Plus, the high school is on the top of a hill overlooking the sound, so, with the cross bikes, we were looking at about 2 miles of downhill, which we bombed.

    EnterTheDeepDarkWoods

    The kid cleaned it, no problem. I had to stop to pick up my running shoes; they were insufficiently strapped to the bike rack, and managed to either bounce off or get stripped off by some of the verdant but dying vegetation covering the trails. Another 4 miles of spinning, and we were downtown, and at the toughest part of the outing: which place to get coffee.

    Bartleby’s, our usual, must be on the Fred schedule. It’s the start/finish of several local rides, and there are bikes stacked up outside most weekend (and weekday) mornings. But, in a clear sign that cycling season should be over, the chairs were not outside, and no bikes were leaning against the building. Kind of shocking. So, we stopped at the Green Marble – tougher to people watch, but still had tables and chairs out, and, if I’ve got to be pressed, probably has the best latte in town.

    PostRideLatte

    Almost faking it

    Procrastination is on the verge of getting me right now. I waited until Wednesday to do the first of 4 workouts for the week that Nike+ Coach has scheduled for me, which means I’m running every day through Saturday. I’m still on the recovery program, so I’ve got that going for me.

    The downside is that I have no choice BUT to run today, tomorrow, and Saturday (or Sunday – guess there’s a little choice)

    The upside is that the mileage is light, so I ought to pull it off.

    Today was Tempo. Not really sure what pace I can sustain any more – I’m at the top end of weight, haven’t had a great year keeping up with the run, and … yeah. Plus, I’ve never really been one for structured workouts, though I’m trying this time (Saturday is 400’s!)

    10 minutes of trying not to puke while the sun set into Fisher’s Island Sound isn’t a bad way to end a day.

    5 for 5

    SaltyWar shared today that he’d finally been back on a streak running for the first time in a couple of years. Turns out, I am, too. 5 whole runs in the last 8 days, 10 minute pace, a total of like 9 miles, and I’m more estatic about running than I have been in years.

    Earlier this summer, before the Lyme kicked in, I’d been starting to get back into a great running groove for the first time since the 2015 Mystic half and Burlington Marathon Relay. Work had settled out, and I was starting to feel good about the whole thing. But when the joints started flaring up, I kind of dropped into a little bit of a funk.

    This month has been the end of the beginning, again – most of the joint damage appears to be healed, and I’ve been feeling energy again, too. I’m using the Nike+ beginner program on my phone, and really enjoy it. They’ve finally added a coach fixture to the app, which talks you through runs, including an interval meant to set speed expectations. The interface is great, too, because you can reschedule workouts.

    Tonight, I had to pick up #1 son from a pre-XC meet pasta party, so I dropped into Haley Farm for today’s 15 minutes. Dusk, just after sunset. Nasty, late summer day – heat hanging on, humidity coming up from the tropics, grey sky, drizzle. And perfect.

    There was one other car in the parking lot when I showed up; didn’t see a soul on the trails. I ran the main trail down to the bike path/Amtrak overpass, then followed the access road to the trail through the fields along the river. The sections through the trees were dark, but I know the road well, and don’t go terribly fast right now. They’ll be light at twilight soon enough, though the heat and the rain we’ve been getting are going to keep the leaves on for a few more weeks.

    Nike+ told me that I was done with about a tenth of a mile to go back to the car; so I walked it back in. Low tide; lots of rot left over from the summer. No cars in the parking lot when I got back.

    Love the run.