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


    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.


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


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.

    Galloway – Meeting a legend; or “How I learned to stop dreading and learn to love the miles”

    So, nigh unto 18 years ago, Melissa brought home a book. Specifically, this book – “Galloway’s Book on Running“. 

    “I want to run the Disney marathon in January 2000,” she said.

    “Uh, OK,” I said.

    I’d been a runner by then (1999) for about 5 years – I did Navy Officer Candidate School in Pensacola Florida, and the Marine Corps Drill instructors we had really (REALLY!) liked to run. Partially, I think, because the United States Marine Corps is the toughest large group of people you’ll find on the planet, and mostly, I think, because they liked seeing cocky college kids puke at 5:15 in the morning.

    So, way back when i graduated college, I, in the space of about 3 weeks, went from someone who’d run a mile or so each month since it was good to run, to someone who’d go run 3 or 4 miles a couple of times a week because running was good. There were a couple of hiccoughs, but I could at least go out and put in some miles a couple of days a week. But, I wasn’t really a runner. 

    Galloway’s book, though, was an eye-opener. In easy language, he put out a plan by which folks like me – joggers, folks who hadn’t run as kids, folks who wanted to get active again – could. And he didn’t talk down to us, he didn’t focus on the harm we would be doing sitting on the couch, he didn’t say “Push through the pain”. Instead, Jeff put down a positive, low pain, high gain approach to becoming a runner.

    Missy and I followed the plan religiously, sort of, until about September, when we found out she was expecting our first child, and then I was on my own (Again, we’d gone from couch potatoes to runners, so the thought of running through pregnancy was somewhat foreign to her). I lasted until November – had a glorious 16 miler one late fall weekend, and then, faced with 18 miles of sleet, it seemed that the wiser thing to do was not fly with a 7 month pregnant wife, and we withdrew.

    Fast forward 18 years, and Missy and I are still running. 

    A couple of weeks ago, one of my social networks said that Jeff Galloway was going to be at Kelley’s Pace right here in Mystic. So, I convinced Melissa (Hey, y’wanna go? …Sure…), and we put it on our schedule.

    It wasn’t without concern that I went – I’ve met authors before and been terribly disappointed – people are often on to different projects and are different people from what your impression is from reading their books.

    Jeff wasn’t that – he was a man who seemed genuine, happy with his mission, and just as excited about the next people he was going to get running as the first folks he started with back in 1972. 

    We got our book signed, talked about our guys running cross country, stood around chatting with a couple of other Mystic runners we knew, and then Galloway talked. A couple of takeaways:

    • Running is a social activity –  Jeff’s running career started as an overweight 8th grader new at a school that required all kids to do some sort of sport. He picked XC, since he’d only have to get to the woods, and then could hide till practice was over. But the second day of practice, a couple of kids he thought he’d like from practice told him to tag along. Each day, he went farther and farther, because he wanted to gossip with the other guys.
    • Human Brain vs. Monkey Brain – I’m going to have to spend some time on his website to get this exactly right, but it boils down to mindfulness – when something is difficult, the way to get it done is to spend some time thinking about it. That’s why he thinks the run/walk/run thing works, that’s why he’s big on pacing. Kind of blew me away in a GTD/43 Folders kind of way (I know that 43folders hasn’t been updated in a while, but it’s still a great resource, and Back2Work is a breath of fresh air each week).
    • The Magic Mile – Wanna know how to pace? Go run your fastest mile. All out, leave everything on the track. Then add at least 30% to that. That’s your long run pace. Add time for heat, add time if you’re feeling out of it, whatever. Mostly, don’t worry about it.
    • Run/Walk/Run – While I think Jeff’s secret sauce is his personableness, and his ability to make running seem like something that IS doable by anyone, THIS is what sets the Galloway method apart from everyone else. After listening to him last night, I may start incorporating this into my own running again. The essence is to fool around with CONSISTIENTLY, not just when you’re tired, but from the beginning, taking walking breaks in your runs. It allows for some recovery during the run, and lets you go longer. 

    Honestly, I could probably keep pushing this post out to about 10,000 words – really, without “Galloway’s Book on Running“, I wouldn’t be a runner, I wouldn’t have been writing this blog for a decade, and I’d be missing out on wonderful Saturdays and Sundays with the wife and kids and a whole host of wonderful people I’ve met on the roads and trails. 

    A thousand steps

    So, this is what the next step of recovery looks like:

    N and I at Bluff Point

    The weekend was AWESOME. Two good bike rides, a kayak trip, sunshine without turning bright red as an antibiotic side effect – quality.

    Saturday morning, #2 son and I went and crushed 18 miles of cross – down through Bluff Point, and even a little bit of singletrack along the railroad through Haley Farm. We did have to stop for coffee and conversation at Green Marble.

    Monday morning, Melissa and I got out for our first ride together since June – boy, have i missed this. Not an epic ride, but a bit of our life together that’s been missing.

    And today – 90 degrees (but dry!) and 1.5 miles running, and another 1.2 alternating run/walk so as to not blow out the knee. On Jamestown, and a dip in the Atlantic to cool down. Possibly too long floating on my back, feeling the sun beat down.

    Life is OK, and I think I’ll be better soon.

    Back at it / Marathon Framework

    So, this is what recovery looks like:

    Not much, but it’s a mile, it’s almost running (Not quite 9 min/mile), and I didn’t die.

    I’m about a week out from finishing the course of Lyme antibiotics, and the swelling in my knee is getting back to being manageable. I think the body is almost willing; now to get the mind there.

    On a completely other note, a friend is looking to run a marathon sometime next year. My advice was to do it. He’s in decent shape, and I think he’ll crush it. But, his question made me think: When I do go back into shape, how am I going to train?

    Base Period
    My first suggestion was emphasizing the importance of the base period – one of the things I’ve failed to do, and hope to do better, is to keep a good base. My ideal base, I think, would look like:

    Mon Tues Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    3-5 miles Cross 3-5 miles Cross 3-5 miles 8-12 miles Rest
    Tempo Cross Speed Work Cross Race Pace Long, Slow Distance Rest

    The base appeals to me – it’s about 15-25 miles a week, 30-45 minutes on work days, and less than 2 miles on weekends. Very manageable, very doable, but a solid base.

    From my experience and from most of what I’ve read, there are three fundamental principles for a build period:

    1. Periodization This is where you build for 3 weeks, and then cutback on the 4th week.
    2. 10-15% build on the long run only Only adding about 10-15% more mileage every week.
    3. Three 20 milers 20 miles is a funny distance. It’s a long, long way to run. But, it’s not so long that it destroys you like the marathon will.

    Most marathon plans add mileage to the workweek runs. I’ve always had a hard spot with this, since, even as my training requirements grow, my work, sleep, and family requirements don’t shrink, especially on week days. I’ll fudge on this a little bit; move from 5K at lunch to 4-5 miles, but that’s adding 15-20 minutes/day instead of another half hour or more for the plans that go to 6-8 miles on weekdays.

    So, rather than focus on whole weeks, I focus on the weekend mileage. My plan looks roughly like this:

    Weeks to Go Distance Theme Weeks to go Distance Theme
    0 26.2 MARATHON! 14 15 Build
    1 8 Taper 15 14 Build
    2 13 Half/Race 16 8 Recovery
    3 20 LONG 17 14 Build
    4 13 Recovery 18 13 Build
    5 20 LONG 19 12 Build
    6 13 Recovery 20 8 Recovery
    7 20 LONG 21 12 Build
    8 13 Recovery 22 11 Build
    9 18 Build 23 10 Build
    10 17 Build 24 6 Recovery
    11 16 Build 25 10 Build/Base
    12 10 Recovery 26 9 Build/Base
    13 16 Build 27 8 Build/Base

    So, that’s about it. Need to set about getting back in shape, which means I need to set about getting disciplined again.

    Everyone running in the fall – best wishes; can’t wait to be toeing the line again.