Sunday, March 4, 2018

8 Days Without Training Makes 1 Weak

Warning, the blog post you are about to read has been rated PG-13 by the Blogging Association of America (BAA). It has been deemed that some information may be considered inappropriate and possibly awkward for young readers, sensitive readers, or readers that have at least 8 functioning brain cells. The subject matter has been deemed as highly sensitive in nature, not very exciting and on par with Vogon Poetry. The reader is advised to proceed with the utmost caution.

Let it be known that this will be the only opportunity I am granting on this particular topic in person or in print. I'm not one who normally hands out personal or private information but for some reason I'm feeling the need to tell this story in this medium at this time. Should you see me in public and ask, I'll likely make a distracting joke and not really dive into the topic nor answer the question. Sorry.

Here's the thing, after all the recent attention I've given on being consistent and then on feeling S.H.I.T.ty, if one were to look closely at my training log, I dropped off the face of the exercising Earth. Here's what I mean. If you look at the first 3-weeks of February, things look pretty darn good.

The biking fell off a little bit at the end, but that was in the middle of a biking-based recovery week and some other life stuff happened (more on this in a moment). That was also linked to my drop in indoor exercise motivation.

Here is the last 2 weeks, including today's exercise, in all of it's lack of glory.

What you see here is the excellent bike ride I did with the Boy and the Outlaw on the 20th. And you see a couple of runs. And then there's this great big gap in training. That's the first time I went that long without training in more than 2 years, which includes a stretch of time when I had a fractured bone in my foot. I went back in my training log and discovered that the last time I took 8 full days off of training was in 2016 after my final race of the season. I took a 10-day off-season and promptly got busy doing the next rounds of doings. 

This week wasn't considered a planned off season. I had some work done, umm, down there. Now, let me promise you that I'm not going to dive into too many details or specifics about what they actually did to my crotchal region. All the major parts are intact and I won't be receiving a sympathy call from Lance Armstrong any time soon. After the follow-up visit (tbd), it's highly likely that this will be the last time I pay a man to put his hands on my groin. The reason I won't be broaching the subject again is that I've found that most people really aren't that interested in anything my crotch has to offer. Every time that I've brought up my crotch in conversation or tried to provide a visual, the patrons cringed. Here's a re-enactment. 

The procedure took place on the first Friday of down week. It was quick and I'd like to tell you painless, but I'm not one to lie. Perhaps I'll embellish a bit for comedic reasons but that's not the same thing. I did not cry. I did almost bite my lip off and was congratulated on the record amounts of perspiration left on the examination table. So I got that going for me.

I asked the Doc about the recovery. He says that I'm to be on light duty for at least a week. Then after 7 days, give 'er a try. He speculated that biking might be the most challenging of the disciplines due to pressure points. I suspected that running would be worse due to the impact forces and jarring on the body. He said that I might have a point and to make sure I run slowly. We both had a good laugh at that one, as if not running slowly were an option. I asked him about swimming. He paused and we both had our second good laugh in as many minutes knowing that I have no intention on getting in the water.

The recovery period was tough. Not because of the procedure but because of the gluttony and sloth. Whereas the average American bloke relishes in the concept of being forced to not exercise, it's not something at which I excel. I could feel my muscles atrophy, which is significant since I don't have much to start with. On the bright side, my hunger was boosted meaning that I managed to pack on all of the pounds I took off in the previous 7 weeks. Score one for the Banter! Oh, wait. Never mind.

Day 8 arrives. It was a chilly but pleasant morning. The type of day that I wouldn't have hesitated to run outside.  I decided to head out to the treadmill. I had no idea how my body was going to react to the first day back and I didn't want to be miles away should it take a turn for the worse. I hopped on the dreadmill and pushed the 'slow' button (easily recognizable due to it's overuse while the faster ones are seemingly untouched). It was clear that after the first mile, my legs were happy to be back. My crotch was still a bit sensitive. My lungs were on fire. O.M.G! It was as if someone reached inside my chest and squeezed all of the life juices directly out of my alveoli. This would be considered pretty good had I been attempting to make wine. But for a slow run?

I eventually got to 45 minutes and all of my cells, crotch-related and the other ones, were for once in agreement that I'd had enough. I came in and got cleaned up. I was afraid to wash my nether regions in fear of the pain. I shuddered to think about what I'd become.

Now, a smart man would have called it a day. The Banter? (I think the question answers itself.) I decided to put on some lycra and head back out to the workout room for a bike ride. I just had to know if I was more correct than the doctor about which discipline would be worse for wear. Since the run was slow, I decided to attempt to be fair to the competition and make the bike slow too. Normally I finish a weekend workout in 90 minutes with a normalized power around 230 watts (out of about 270). This day I went for 60 minutes with an NP of 183 watts. On a normal crotch day, this would be considered a recovery ride. And, since I'm recovering...

You'll be pleased to know that I was indeed, from my anecdotal n=1 pseudoscientific experiment, more correct than the doc. The areas of concern were not in contact with the bike saddle. The legs felt pretty good. The lungs weren't leaking any ethanol. I have to go back for a follow up visit in late April. I can't wait to tell him. (Ya know, because I'm trying to boost his knowledge base.)

Based on my running experiment, I decided to take one more day off. I have expectations to re-start normal training on Monday. It'll be more of the same. Run slowly, not necessarily by choice. Bike in the garage, begrudgingly by choice. Play with my crotch. Repeat. I'm happy to put this experience behind and am pleased that I can again get jiggy with it it happened early in the season. I'm so motivated that I may even get back in the water. (<--You're supposed to laugh at that.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nuances of a Group Ride

Apparently, people get together and exercise in groups bigger than one person. In fact, they do so often. For some people, they refuse to go riding unless there are other people around. As an introverted triathlete, this makes no sense to me. I can't think of a better ride where I can go for hours without seeing another person. Why these other people need to get together in skimpy clothes and ride so close that you can actually smell the stench and get smacked in the face with their sweat-laden backwash is beyond me. They've even invented internet based apps so that you can participate in a group ride even when there's no proximal group to be had. (Efforts to import smells and perspiration droplets to be added in future versions to make the experience more authentic.)

If I had to be honest, I'm a little afraid of the group thing. It's probably because there are some rules that I don't fully understand. Groups typically don't like aerobars. They expect you to call out obstacles, such as potholes, cars, and hotties running down the road. You're expected to take turns in the front of the pack- a condition oft referred to as "breaking wind". (Note- this might help explain that smell I was telling you about.) If someone is too slow, you kinda have to know whether or not it's cool to leave them behind- known as dropping them- or to hang out with the pokies.

Given that it's February and I'm dead stuck in the middle of feeling like S.H.I.T., motivation to ride has been waning recently. Then, Mother Nature (who apparently reads my blog), decided to toss a little bone towards the indoor riding angst and make it nice outside for a day. And this niceness coincided with a day off. Since everyone was being nice, I hollered out to a couple of guys who I know wouldn't pass up a chance to do the group thing (although, looking back, one of them may have been expecting something completely different).

The forecast had called for a rainy morning with the clouds breaking by early afternoon and highs in the mid 60ºs. With the overnight and morning wetness, the roads would likely be slick but at least most of the salt would be washed off. I scheduled for the Outlaw and the Boy to come over at around 1:00. (Aside: I had no intention of actually riding at 1:00. I was stalling to give the weather a chance to improve and hopefully dry itself up. Plus, the guys are rather pleasant to hang out with, especially even when donned in lycra. The weather wouldn't fully clear until about 15 minutes after the ride ended. That's the way it goes. / End Aside)

My bike has been locked on the trainer since October. Temperatures and daylight dictate that outdoor riding is reserved for maniacs and badasses (Aside 2: There's a fine line between maniac and badass. Both terms are meant for people who are willing to do things that normal folk wouldn't even attempt. Riding when it's cold and dark is on the list. It's such that I can't normally tell maniac apart from badass. It's mostly moot since neither are adjectives that would be used to describe me anyway. /End Aside 2)

Our small group rummaged around my cluttered garage looking for items that we'd normally already have out and about but have been relegated to being tossed aside for the hibernation. For example, my helmet, sunglasses, and riding gloves. I don't need these things when strapped-in to my trainer. The Boy didn't have a spare kit or even a place to hold his spare kit. I had an extra bike bag that I found underneath a shelf. No, not on the bottom shelf, but underneath the bottom shelf. I have no idea how I knew to look there. I handed the bag to the Boy and don't expect it back. He sees it as a gift. I see it as getting rid of crap that I'm not using and freeing up some space underneath a shelf. It's win-win. He asked for some CO2 cartridges, which I buy in bulk. I handed him a couple realizing that it was stupid since he didn't have a chuck to dispense the air. (Aside 3: It' was a completely wasted gesture. The Boy didn't even know that he needed a chuck nor how to use one if he'd had it. It was pretty clear that if he had a flat that I'd be changing it for him with my gear, either first hand or donated stuff. This is the reason he's been dubbed "The Boy". /End Aside 3)

Our 1:00 ride started promptly at 1:45, earlier than expected. I, being the senior member of the group by more than a decade, and being the host, was expected to set the course. Like any good guy, I like to include the junior members in the decision. Option 1- go on the same route I've taken them before. This route is through the country and features 1 stop sign in roughly 40 miles of road. It's mostly flat and has frequent views of Lake Ontario. Translation- it's perfect! Option 2- go on a mostly new-to-them route with several stop lights, higher densities of traffic, and a lot more climbing. The road conditions would be considerably crappier. It has a fun-factor several degrees lower than option 1. Just when you think the people you hang out with are intelligent individuals, they surprise you. The guys opted for the latter.

In their defense, one of the reasons for choosing the more tedious, less-fun ride was the fact that the Bay Bridge was open to road traffic. Or, I think it was closed to boat traffic. Okay, I'm not exactly sure how they term this as open or closed. It depends on perspective, I guess. Either way, we likely won't get the chance to do this route again for a very long time. Most of the year, the bridge looks like this:

This means getting from one side to the other is difficult. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking dear god why am I still reading this gibberish that we are triathletes and therefore swimming across should be in our skill set. However, you're overlooking the simple facts that most triathletes aren't well-known for their swimming prowess (although this group actually breaks that mold since we were all collegiate swimmers) and we are pansies (this group embodies that mold since we're pansies). The water temps in the winter time are well below YMCA climate standards and, since it was warm outside, we didn't have our wetsuits on.

During the winter months, when the seafaring blokes in the area put away their boats, the Bay Bridge looks like this:

This is much easier to navigate, even for a few lycra-wearing pansies like ourselves. We took advantage of a rare, warm, winter day to traipse through a section of road that would otherwise be off limits. Let's do this thing!

Now, I had full expectation of going easy and enjoying the ride. Then, the male-ego kicked in. And, it wasn't just for me but for the Outlaw and the Boy simultaneously. An easy effort would have me well below 200 watts. Our first 5 miles averaged 226 watts, which is roughly race pace for me. The Boy thought I was going too slow so he broke the wind for a while <insert joke about the smell here>. When we turned the corner to go up a hill, the Boy was still in the lead. The Outlaw rode up next to me and asked, "How long until he fizzles?" I panted my answer, "Hopefully <gasp> sometime soon. <gasp gasp>" My wish was granted soon thereafter.

At around the 11 mile mark, I pulled the guys over to the side. This is one of those funky features of a group ride- talking to the people you are riding with. And, since I'm an out of shape, gasping for air pansy, we pulled into a parking lot. This particular talk was more of a lecture about the up-and-coming stretch of road. Specifically, there was going to be a nice downhill in which I regularly hit 40+ mph. Since it was winter and a rough one at that, I couldn't vouch for the pothole conditions and I sure as hell wasn't going to point them out at speed. It had also started raining again. I advised the guys to stay out of aero, not gun for speed, and to not bunch up so we could take evasive maneuvers if necessary.

We took off down the recently warned about stretch. My Garmin lists me as hitting only 35 mph. The Boy decided not to heed my warnings and draft. I'm sure his Garmin lists a top speed greater than mine, as evidenced by his passing me at said top speed. Then he pulls into my line, dumps all of his road spray directly into my face, and took evasive action on some potholes. Yup, it'll be a while before he ditches "The Boy" monicker.

The Outlaw was proving to be the most intelligent rider of the threesome. He's been concerned about his ability to ride. His early season training has been run-focused. He thinks that his power on the bike is dropping and that his training plan hasn't been sufficient to keep up with even lowly riders like the Boy and the Banter. I think he's dead wrong and this ride did more to validate me than him. What am I using as evidence? The climb up the other side of that hill, that's what. As I attempted to clear out the gunk from my eyes and glasses, the Boy was doing something that resembled riding, the Outlaw powered past us like we were standing still. When he hit the hill, I was pushing over 400 watts to hold just under 9 mph in a feeble attempt to stay on his wheel. He might have finally broke sweat for a short period of time on that 1/2 mile stretch.

The route for the next 5 miles was less than ideal but a necessary evil to get to the next stage of good riding. The reason for the evil lies in the ever-growing battle for road space between the vroom vrooms and the guys who need to 'get off the road you bike riding freaks- the roads aren't meant for your types'. Sigh. These people really should do some research as to why roads became existent (hint: it wasn't for cars). There's no reasoning with motorists when they're in this mindset, including with the bloke that almost side-swiped the Boy. You really have to be missing something in your moral compass to want to physically harm someone because they forced you to slow down for less than 10 seconds of your life. The good thing is that an overwhelming majority of people on the roads do not share this mentality and are pretty good people. The bad thing is that it takes just one of those mentalities to really ruin someone's, possible more people's, life. We ducked off of the easy path to meander through a residential neighborhood.

The Boy and the Outlaw are known for their short bursts of racing. While in the side-neighborhood, I told them of a nice stretch that would cater to their racing needs. When that section hit, they took off. I was going to (attempt to) hang. It was still raining, but the drops had turned to drizzle. As they took off, I felt an unfortunate wobble in my back wheel that was reminiscent of a flat tire. I slowed a bit and tried a couple of on-board tests. After reassuring myself that the tires were fine and it was the road that sucked, I looked off into the distance only to notice that we never set rules as to if this was a no-drop ride or not. I had clearly been dropped.

The guys took a break from their hijinks to pull over at a gas station and wait for the old man to join the happy couple. I really wish I was there the whole time, only because I learned that the Outlaw can't dismount his bike without hitting a pothole and falling off. The Boy was there and he recapped the story in all it's glory. I almost feel bad for laughing since the Outlaw was slightly injured from the fall. It was that injury that made the decision to head back versus extend the ride.

From that gas station, it was a short decline down to that gloriously open/ closed bridge. Being old also means that I have experience at such skills as getting into my cleats and taking off. I was able to do so and catch the green light while the inexperienced Boy and the injured Outlaw struggled and got stuck by the red. The red light also meant that the cars weren't coming either and I had the whole wet lane to myself with no fear of getting a face full of idiot backwash. Once over the bridge, I pulled over and waited for the guys to rejoin.

The rest of the ride was familiar and uneventful. I dropped the guys off at the Boy's house, chatted for a while, and concluded the day with a short jaunt back to my house. According to my data, the ride was just over 31 miles of wet but pleasant February riding.

When I got home, I surveyed the damage. Okay, there was no actual damage, just about 12 pounds of dirt and grime caked to various parts of me and the bike (10.5 pounds directly caused from riding behind the Boy). From a distance, it doesn't look that bad. (Click to enlarge)

Up close, the dirt better presents itself.

I got out the hose and sprayed down the bike. Then I found a towel (possibly under a shelf), wiped off all of the good spots. Then I got out the lube and applied liberally. It had been a pretty fantastic day.

Shortly after settling in for the night, I received a message from Strava (one of those virtual group ride app thingies). The email is screen shotted here to preserve all of it's glory.

Like I said, I don't fully understand the group ride thing. And, it's possible that they are using the term 'ride' differently than me. I had thought about doing the group ride thing more often but this email has me second guessing that thought...

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sudden Hatred of Indoor Training

People are constantly getting credit for 'discovering' new things, like countries, diseases and/ or conditions. And, I say 'discovering' because it's highly likely that these things have been around for quite some time. It's like when Columbus 'discovered' America despite there being ample evidence that there were people living here for at least 3 years before he traveled. And it's pretty clear that he wasn't even the first of the Europeans to make the trip, since the Vikings made it this way several times and took all the hot chicks for themselves (source: image search for women from Iceland). And he still gets credit despite the obvious liability that he didn't even set foot on anything currently classified as North America.

I have recently 'discovered' a condition that I am confident will solidify my enrollment in the Nobel Prize pool, along with all of the other greats who have simply identified something that's been around for ages but it took a genius to point out it's existence. I've been wondering what's been going on with me lately and I've narrowed it down to one just-now-identified condition called, "Sudden Hatred of Indoor Training." Those who know me are quite eager in verifying what I'm about to tell you, I'm full of S.H.I.T.

There are lots of reasons to train indoors. Some of them are actually practical.

  • It's ridiculously cold outside
  • You're a pansy
  • It's unsafe training conditions due to snow, wind, rain, pansiness, etc.
  • It's too dark and you're afraid of monsters
  • You don't have any clean clothes that match
  • You want to control the training criteria
  • You can reduce the effect of environmentally caused injuries
  • You're too lazy to put on extra layers

Last year at this time, my training was virtually nothing. I was on the road to recovering from an injury that set my season up for a summer of patheticness. This year, I vowed to approach my training a little more safely. Most of my running has been on the treadmill. I'd only venture outside if it was daytime and the roads were clear of sludge. That was n=7 out of 19 runs during the month of January. All of my riding has been indoors. I'm in decent shape.

I've been able to hold back my S.H.I.T.s for a pretty good period of time. This week, however, the pressure seemed to get explosively high. I went out to the treadmill the other day, felt sick to my stomach, and clenched myself back into the house. The S.H.I.T. was strong enough for me to layer up and head outside despite the chance of running into some darkness monsters. Yesterday, the S.H.I.T. was so powerful that I skipped a bike ride for the first time in 5 weeks. I just couldn't bring myself to sit on that pot of a bike. I sat on my lazy boy, brooded, and hoped to catch a glimpse of the lady who walks up and down my driveway on a consistent basis.

Today, I went for a nice run outside this morning with no problems. I still  can't seem to get up the nerve to head to the workout room for a ride. I'm procrastinating as much as I can.  Since the run, I've done some laundry, put away dishes, looked at images of Norse women, made lunch, took the dogs for a walk, made a second lunch, and started 3 separate blog posts (all of them crap). I know that I need to get up and out to for a nice 90 minute session of suffering. The S.H.I.T. in me is still quite strong and I'm not sure if there's a cure. I guess I'll have to wait for it to run it's course.

There are rumors out there that some athlete's train indoors all-year round. On purpose. That's gotta be weird, right? It appears as if they are immune to getting the S.H.I.T.s. They are probably going to be my next focus of research for athletic anomalies. It's quite possible that they are deficient of a few necessary genes that code for going outside. Agoraphobics know what I'm talking about. Their specific problem is that they view the interior environment as superior. They seem to have a, "Lack Of Sense in Exterior Righteousness". I'll tell you about these L.O.S.E.R.s later because they only give out Nobel Prizes once a year.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Art of Being Consistent

There's this woman on my road. Retired. Friendly. Happy. GILF. Amazing human being.  In excellent shape. I'm pretty sure that when her age I get, look as good I will not. I see her just about every day. Our separate routines go something like this.

Me- sitting on my lazy boy drinking a frothy, caffeinated, chocolatey beverage.
Her- outside walking down the road.

Note: This is not her. I'm not that kind of a creep.
Me- sitting on my lazy boy drinking a frothy, caffeinated, chocolatey beverage.
Her- outside walking down the road.

Me- got my lazy bum out for a morning run.
Her- outside walking down the road.

Me- sitting on my lazy boy drinking a frothy, caffeinated, chocolatey beverage, still recovering from Wednesday's run
Her- outside walking down the road.

Me- Feeling guilty about not running on Thursday. Went for a run.
Her- outside walking down the road.

Me- sitting on my lazy boy drinking a frothy, caffeinated, chocolatey beverage. Will likely run later. (Maybe)
Her- outside walking down the road.

Me- getting ready to take the Wife to the Y. She'll do a class, I'll go run around the Y- neighborhood, feeling excited that I'm getting in my 4th run of the week and taking the day off tomorrow!
Her- outside walking down the road.

Since I'm a sweaty, smelly male, I need ample time to cool down before I'm allowed back in the house. Therefore, I'll take a nice recovery walk. Every once in a while, I'll be on my desweatification jaunt right around the same time that she's going for a walk down the road. Much to her dismay (I'm assuming) I'll join her for the walk.

One time, I made it all the way to her turn around point. Understandably, it's right at the end of the drive. The drive ends at a road. Which has a line separating the shoulder from the main drag. She diligently walked right up to the road, looked both ways, waited until it was safe, and touched the white line with her foot. She said that the walk 'didn't count' until she touched the line. I asked her how many days out of the year she missed her walk. "About half a dozen, maybe." There's a lot to be learned in an amazing specimen like herself.

Lessons for Me (and You)
Consistency is the key to long term success in training. Having one good workout is just that- good. Having a bunch on mediocre workouts, day in and day out, is the stuff that champions are made of. I have not been a good case study in consistency.

Here's most of my December training

A scrupulous eye would see that there seemed to be an emphasis on running (blue posts), which makes sense for a slow, sloth-like creature like myself. You'd be hard pressed to call it 'consistent'. And, exactly zero people would call 7 rides (featured in red) in a month "high quality levels of training"no matter how excellent those rides were. If I had any intentions of getting in shape and setting myself up for a good season, this is a good lesson in what not to do. Something had to change.

A short blurb on how my year ended- badly. On Dec 30th, I came down with one of those flu thingies. It hit me hard for the next week or so. Even for a loser like myself, this was pretty bad.

It was during this downtime when a lazy boy sitting, mocha drinking, slow-running boy like myself took to ogling noticing the habits of my neighbor and used it as inspiration to take the lazy out of the boy. I became healthy from being sick and sick of being slow. Here's how January ended.

Hell yeah! Just in case you are too lazy to count, that's 6 runs and 5 rides a week. Already I feel a little faster. Already I feel a little more powerful on the bike. I've lost 3 pounds of belly fat over this period (this is waaaaaaaaay overdue). If I had any intentions of getting in shape and setting myself up for a good season, this is a good lesson in exactly what I need to do. (Assuming you don't focus on the swimming piece, shown in yellow.)

Here's the thing: this is just one month of Banter-quality excellence (which should not be confused with actual excellence). But, triathlon is a long-con. You have to start sowing the seeds of consistency early on and keep them going again and again. Yes, there's going to be hiccups along the way. Eventually, one of those demons kids I teach will pass on a plague-like disease (see first week of January). At some point, the Wife will ask for something labor intensive like washing the dishes or going on a wine tour. There's a chance that I could step on a fantom rock and develop a freak-like injury. Putting those out-of-my-control factors aside, the more consistent I am, the better I'll be.

Winter will, hopefully, be over soon. I'll be getting outdoors more often and for longer. I hope that I get a chance to see more of my hottie neighbor out on the road instead of from the seat of my lazy boy (truth be told, both circumstances are pretty awesome!). And, I hope that the next time we meet, I'll be in decent enough shape that she won't wrinkle her nose at me. Although, I doubt that there's any kind of consistency that will get rid of that smell...