Category Archives: life

23 is the new 25

(Yeah – this one takes some explaining. First, though: Dianna – five is the new three, not the new six, because I did feel that the last mile on Thursday was a little bit of a stretch. Five would have been a completely effortless effort. Six required a little bit of endurance pushing)

Ok. All Right. Now that we’ve got that out of the way – Two workouts to sum up. Saturday was yard day. Broke up some of the potholes in the driveway, slung around 60 lb bags of asphalt patch, blah, blah blah. Got a good nap in the hammock. Scratch that – got a decent nap in the hammock while Jacob played pirate in same.

Sunday morning, the boys were up, the wife was well rested, and there were two hours before we had to be out of the house for church. My soulmate and partner says “Hey, why don’t you go run?” Why not indeed?

Saturday – nice, but still a little chilly. Sunday was quite literally perfect. High 40’s/Low 50’s, sunny, little to no wind. So I decide to do the 5 mile loop from the house around to River Road. Headed uphill first – as I headed up the trail to the old school, Louis Armstrong and Ella were crooning, the sun was shining, and it hit me exactly how good life was. Cleared the top of the hill, made a little bit of a wrong turn and about a quarter mile detour, and headed down the hill towards the river. The sun was clear of the hills on the other side, and, no lie, there were robins singing.

No other real implications – more than 5 miles, about 40 minutes, give or take.

Other than the iPod, I’m taking a decidedly low-tech approach to running for a little while. Or at least until I recharge the batteries for the Forerunner. Seriously, though – I’ve been enjoying running without the continual feedback from my little GPS guided nursemaid. Maybe it’s spring, maybe it’s a complete rejection of the treadmill mentality, maybe it’s just yet another random flight.. whatever, it’s working. Last week was 21.4 miles total, which is the biggest in a while.

OK, on to the 23 being the new 25 – I’d picked up a new cassette (a SRAM PG 970 12-23) for the Cannondale (part of upgrading the old Trek to nine-speed).

It’s beautiful.

(which reminds me that I need to take and post more pictures)

Quite literally beautiful – all chrome and shiny plastic, all kind of bits cut away – even the teeth that attach to the spline are only square on the edge that transmits force to the axle – the backside is nicked off to save grams. Will grams help me out? Heck no – I’m still dealing in pounds off of my backside. In any case, I’ve been avoiding switching to the new cassette out of caution – my old cassette is a 12-25, meaning that the “granny gear”, i.e. the biggest cog in the back, has 25 teeth, and the new cassette only goes to 23 teeth – I’m losing two inches of chain leverage to make the rear wheel spin one revolution.

(this is the part where everyone but Warren, Christian, and Fixedgear say “Uh… yeah…” and start reaching for the button back to Bloglines)

Anyhoo, the last time I rode Newport, I ended up bailing out into the 25 tooth cog on a couple of the hills. This time – not so much. Not at all, in fact, and I managed to avoid the 23 tooth cog most of the ride.

All the way into the office today WGBH, the NPR station out of Boston, was pimping the Marathon and Patriot’s Day. Yep, folks in the Bay State get an extra holiday, and miss no opportunity to rub it in. I’d feel bad about it, but I spent eight years as a Federal Employee, and got more than my share of cheesy holidays. Plus, the folks up in MA do it right – a Marathon, an 11 AM Red Sox game that gets out just in time to cheer on the runners, and commemorations of revolution, democracy, and all of that stuff that the rest of us take for granted.

Me, I was into the office early to make sure I finished up some stuff for a client and to make an 8 AM meeting. Round lunchtime, I really thought about heading out for a short ride (wanted to get a day’s rest – my shins were twinging a little bit Sunday evening, likely from swinging an 8 lb sledge on Saturday), and thought “It’s just going to get windier…”

It did. Finished up in time to easily finish the 14 mile loop I’d done on the east side of the island a couple weeks back, so I headed out. And I felt good. When I got to the turn at the Middletown line, right before you get to First Beach, I checked the clock on my cell phone (no Forerunner, no computer – just legs, lungs, and 18 or so pounds of aluminum, steel, rubber, and leather) – Wow. I’d only been out for 30 minutes, and had only about 10 minutes back to the office. Hmmm. What to do?

Hey, I thought – why not loop the other side of the island and finish the day with about 26.2? It’s appropriate, right?

A brief gripe – The biggest threat to cyclists is not, as many would propose, automobiles. Nor is it, as others would counter, crappy road conditions. Automobiles are, for the most part, easily seen, observable, and even more closely tied to good pavement than cyclists. Crappy road conditions – Well, bikes were invented in the 1800s when roads were by definition, crappy, and were (on average) faster than cars until the 19-teens and ’20s. Crappy road conditions are a figment of riders’ imaginations. Or an indication that you’re riding in Northern France/Southern Belgium.

No, dear hearts, the biggest threat to riders is pedestrians. Not joggers/runners/other folks exercising. Like cars, folks out for their health are predictable, and usually worried about playing in traffic. Random pedestrians, however, are interested in shopping, snacking, talking on their cells, chatting with their companions, and only marginally aware of anything outside of a 3′ sphere. If it’s making engine noises, maybe they’ll pay attention; definitely if it’s making honking noises.

Bikes, as any dog will tell you, are completely unholy – they move silently, without any discernible means of locomotion. So pedestrians ignore them, much like people ignore anything that does not fit into their world view, such as UFOs, etc. And pedestrians are quite happy to stroll out into the middle of a street as soon as the last car in a cycle has passed, and remain there until the next batch of cars patches.

Downtown was near suicide – it’s school spring break for most schools in New England, and Newport is spectacular as the annual flowers begin to come out and temperatures moderate. It’s all right, though – commuting in Houston lead me to perfect the bike bail-out; the key is to lunge at the pole or ped you’re about to hit, grab on, and try to get your body beneath theirs to cushion their fall… Didn’t hit anyone this time, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. I did nicely use that stretch of road to recover from really pushing on the first part of the loop.

So I did the western side of the island. There was a pretty stiff breeze out of the southwest, but I used a little topography to my advantage. I cut through downtown and headed west on the north side of the island, past the old fort, using the island itself to create a lee. As I made the turn at the State Park at the western tip of the island to head east on Ocean Avenue, I battled the breeze up the hill, then swung left.

The Atlantic was brilliant blue on my right, and the sun and the wind caressed my back. Honest to god, I have never been so right with the cycling gods. My legs were turning circles, not mashing and pulling, breathing was regular, not panicked and painful, and there was only the slightest sound of chain clicking on teeth over rubber crunching sand. Over the rough patches of road somehow I was able to unweight not only my butt from the saddle, but also my wrists from the tape and my feet from the pedals – I swear, I was flying.

As I came back into Newport proper and rounded the corner onto Bellair/are? amongst the mansions of the Gilded Age, there was a car of Mass. tourists down for Spring Break (middleschoolers and their parents, not college) poking along, seeing the sites. I rode up behind, and was considering doing the jerk thing and whipping around them. The driver caught me in his rear-view, and started to accelerate away. I jumped, and drafted him most of the way up the road, loving every minute of maintaining what must have been better than 20 MPH, uphill.

Pulled back into the office parking lot after about 90 minutes in the saddle. Haven’t figured out mileage, but I’m pretty confident that 26 ish is a good number. There was a detour all the way out to Third Beach along roads that give the cobbles of Flanders a run for their money. The biggest difference this time was no fooling around with maps.

But WOW. What a ride. I finished strong – the last four corners featured voices screaming in my head “The American’s approaching the finish line after a long day in the saddle. The Sprinter’s teams have really put on the pressure, but Jankowski ought to be able to hold them off…” Yep, I rode it like I stole it. So nice.

The silly thing is that I’m really looking forward to getting another 20 running miles in this week, though.

ran, ran, ran, ran, ran

Also known as “A Heartbreaking Tale of Relying on the Kindness of Others”

Monday, I’d written a post so breathtaking, so stunning, so mind-bogglingly beautiful that I seriously considered not posting it. It had pathos, it had descriptions so true to life that the woman walking behind me while I wrote it had to be broken out of her reverie with old-school smelling salts. I was contemplating the “Post Me” and “Delete” buttons with equal consideration after I heard our IT guy sobbing tears of enlightenment while reading it, and heard his computer’s overload pop when the screening software recognized for the wonder of modern literature that I had created.

As I recognized that the clouds were going to part and pass a heavenly chorus to touch the earth, and I was going to hear the angles sing, I decided that I had a moral obligation to share my enlightenment with the world. Anticipating the slew of book offers and speaking engagements about to be hurled my way, I grabbed a box into which to pack my personal effects as I knew I would not have a chance later. I ran a comb through my hair and chomped on a mint, then made sure my shoes were tied so I could outsprint the women who were sure to begin to throw themselves at me once the post went live.

With a deep breath, I hit “Post” on the Blogger interface.

“We’re sorry, but we’re experiencing technical difficulties. Our software engineers are working diligently to correct the problem.” Whaaaaa??? I wondered?

I hit the Back Arrow on Firefox to see if I could salvage the post, but all that remained was a blank page. “Nooooooooo!!!!!” I screamed.

For a heartbeat I considered attempting to reconstruct the post, to pass on my enlightenment to you, the unwashed masses. But the moment had passed. Truth and Beauty, only seconds ago framed on my laptop’s screen, had again passed into Reality. And my lunch hour (and a half counting actually eating) was past and a meeting awaited.

So I apologize. And I promise I will use pen and paper next time if my beloved iBook is not handy, with MacJournal fired up. (Seriously, MacJournal is quite possibly the best bit of software I’ve run across in a while – interfaces with MT, Blogger, WordPress and a bunch of others if you want, and works like a champ as standalone. PC’s may have a million applications, but the 10,000 for Macs are much higher quality). But don’t worry too much – my muse seems to have headed north; you can get most of the gist over at Brogan’s Blog.

As for me – I’m going to switch to WordPress or something similar (There’s a scandal brewing over the guy who runs WordPress’ page gaming Google to increase their AdSense revenue, which kind of bums me out – the Complete Running blogs are all beautiful, and the package looks easy to use) next week, once I’m done with taxes (not my fault, I’m waiting on the Navy to fix a bad W-2). I can’t bash Blogger too hard, after all, I got far more than I paid for from their free service. But, I’ve been meaning to learn some server-side stuff, and this seems to be a great way to do it.

Oh, yeah, RUNNING:

Re-focusing this week seems to be working. Monday I banged out 5 miles in 42 minutes (average of 8:22/mile), and felt good. I tried the whole “running on my toes” thing, but it felt like I was scraping the bottom of my shoes when my feet would touch down. It’s a good thing on the bike, since pushing forward at the top of the stroke is adding power, but in running my guess is that the little “Shhhhhsh” sound with each step is wasted energy that’d be better used to go faster/farther. So I fiddled around with my stride, easily avoiding striking my heels by virtue of a dull ache remaining in my right heel from my incident at the pool. List it as a good run.

Today, I scraped out 3.75 miles in about 32 minutes. Yesterday’s run took more out of me than I’d thought, plus, I really pushed the first two miles (15:05 for the two). I started out kind of sore from Monday, but running again today did wonders for stretching out the muscles. But it was beautiful, and there was NO WAY I was spending lunch indoors.

I’m still chasing the Runner’s High – somehow I haven’t found it the last couple of months, but I keep getting closer.

Oh, and I’m cycling tomorrow. A guy from one of the other contractors and I kept “meaning to” ride together all last year; this year, we’re not taking excuses.

Wow. I didn’t realize exactly how great things were going. The bluebird of happiness seems to have arrived with shorts weather. Hope y’all are doing as well (Don’t think CT is going to completely beat Texas out of me; besides, English is sorely lacking a second person plural pronoun, and y’all is much better than “youse guys” or just “you”. Try it.)

And no lie – go read (or re-read) Chris’s post on FOCUS. Chris, as always, rocks.

Wow

You’ve got to check out Sean Lloyd’s post today – it’s about Dean Karzanes, an ultra-runner. Great post; hits the nail on the head with the eternal struggle between work/family/self.

In other news, my heel is really throbbing. I think my ankle is fine, but I don’t think I’ll push things. Probably go sit on one of the bikes at the gym this afternoon for a while.

Appropriate Word of the Day

pestiferous \pes-TIF-uh-ruhs\, adjective:
1. Bearing or bringing disease.
2. Infected with or contaminated by a pestilential disease.
4. Bothersome; troublesome; annoying.

(More here)
Grrr… Still sniffiling; but it’s a beautiful day today, so I will get out.

Stupid Flu

OK, probably not actual flu, but some terrible head cold anyway.

The bike ride didn’t happen on Wednesday, and the dual day didn’t happen today. The bike ride was called off on account of freakish late season snow – it was cold and wet most of Wednesday.

Wednesday night I went to sleep about 8:30, right after the kids were in bed. And woke up at about 6:45, running late.

Today was a pretty busy day at work, trying to tie up what I’ve been doing enough that it’s useful. So I blew off swimming, figuring I’d run on the way home. Ah, but then I remembered that there were a couple of errands to run, so that was shot. Fortunately one involved an appliance that had been delivered without the appropriate cables hoses and doo-dads necessary to hook it up and that, after a month of waiting for it to be delivered, was going to be at least another week to get the proper gear brought out …. In any case, I called the store, made sure they had the parts, and told them I’d hook it up myself provided they’d give me the parts for free. Sure ’nuff, when I get to the store, I’m told “You spoke to who? That’s impossible since I’ve been answering the phone all day.” Grrr… I’m logging it as Cardio.

Tomorrow will be better.

Sunk

It’s official – this week is a lost cause. Haven’t really met any goals since Monday. Here’s the reason why:

1. I forgot to keep training as a top priority.

There’s a bunch of reasons for why – Change in work routine (I’m on annual training); getting ready for my folks to come to town; stayed up late working on bikes and fixing the iBook. But the root cause is prioritization.

The up side is that there’s still half a week left, and that I can move the tri- training back a week. And maybe it’ll be warmer next week…

Changes

Changes of season, changes of program.

Had a bit of a relapse Friday and Saturday, and decided not to push myself through sickness. Wuss, yes, I know.

But I’m starting my alltriathlon.com program tomorrow – 2200 meters in the pool. Yippie.

Life is good, though. We’re having a birthday party over here next weekend, so I spent much of today cleaning the basement. Yeah, the exciting life of a blogger.

All the best to y’all.

Connundrum

At the end of this week, I finish the “build to 20 mile base” that I’ve been working on out of The Runner’s Training Diary”. I’ve been wondering what to do to bridge the gap between now and the end of June when Marathon training begins in earnest, and Annalisa may have the answer in her plan to work up to a Tri.

It meets a bunch of my desires:
1. Good blend of running, swimming, and cycling* (the weather is about to get SO much better, I just know it…)
2. It’s a plan. I cannot emphasize enough how much having someone else do the research and planning for me is when it comes to fitness. I’d love to be a self-made man, but let’s face it – I’ve spent over three decades mucking it up. In an ideal world, I’d go out and grab a personal trainer or coach, but, frankly, I’m cheap. Maybe next year. This year, I think I want to save for a PowerBook.
3. Kind of a bridge to sustain a reasonable amount of effort and hopefully let some weight come off without worrying too much about creating a stress injury and a setback
4. Did I mention I don’t have to think, just execute?

She mentioned she got the program from AllTriathlon. They seemed pretty cheap, and I didn’t want to boost content from someone who looks like he’s got what I need, so I went ahead and signed up for an 8 week fitness and weight loss plan. $20, probably could have gotten it out of a book or something, but hey – it’s all about experimentation. I’ll keep you posted…

Found a great new NPR show this weekend: Weekend America. It is, honest to god, a new program. I caught their bit about Chi Running, which I think Chris has covered. They’ve got runners on their splash screen, support RSS and Podcasting (If only Garrison could be so hip), but don’t have Bob Edwards… wait, nowhere on NPR has Bob Edwards’ dulcet tones any more.

*There’s a bunch of motorcycle riders in the office, and we’ve got a tenuous truce. “Cycling” refers to riding a bicycle, usually wearing some form of tights, but not necessarily. “Biking” involves gasoline and much higher speeds. Though, in the case of a couple of knuckleheads, less protective equipment.