Monday, January 16, 2017

Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Running

I'm pretty sure Thomas Jefferson was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that he died a good 150 years before the first actual triathlon. A little known fact: Most of the Declaration of Independence had nothing to do with succeeding from the British Empire and more to do with the desire to have a better network of biking and running paths.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... Thomas Jefferson was the captain of the Philadelphia Triathlon and Running Club, which we refer to today as "The Forefathers". The meetings that that lead towards the creation of famous historical documents were really just adaptations of club meeting minutes.
Thomas Jefferson grew up in a tiny Virginia town called Shadwell. I don't know if any of you have ever visited Shadwell, but if you missed it you ain't missing much. There wasn't a whole lot of action happening in the Virginia outback. You could get a girlfriend, which is why they coined the "Virginia is for Lovers". There wasn't a lot of other things to do. Tommy, not being very good looking, decided that he needed to be in shape if he was going to partake in the stately pastime. "You gotta do the best with what you got." -Thomas Jefferson (probably).

Therefore, Tommy started running. He typically started his runs early in the morning, since Virginia can get unpleasantly warm and humid in the afternoon sun. Plus, Tommy was fair-skinned and sunscreen hadn't been invented yet. He knew he wasn't going to pick up the ladies with a nice red hue to his skin. They liked 'em paisley white back then. (More evidence that I may have been born into a wrong era).

Tommy also knew that he was quite stinky, post runs. In an effort to mask his musk, he took to swimming in the Rivanna River. He developed a system of swimming against the current.  The trick was to find a current strong enough so it would look like you weren't moving at all. (Later, entrepreneurs were studying Tommy's training techniques and developed the Endless Pool.) Swimming against the current had several advantages. See, even back then, swimmers weren't that popular. When you swim downstream, you wind up in a completely different town and had to perform the walk of shame to get back home, all in your swimming gear.  By swimming upstream, you could just float back to the beginning, change into your regular clothes, and no one's none the wiser. As a consequence, Tommy could get in a good run, swim and hydrate at the same time (not recommended in present time but men were stronger back then), and be clean by 10:00 when the UV risk was starting to get, well, risky.

By his late-teens, it was clear that the women of Shadwell just weren't interested. Tommy was sick and tired of striking out and grumpy with the state's motto for not living up to his expectations. A friend of his heard that Philly was where the action was. So, he got a place with some dude who was West Philadelphia born and raised. Shortly thereafter, the roommate got into a playground fight and ended up moving to California (but that's a story for a different post). This only increased Tommy's workout fury. But, since he was in the big city now, he added biking to his repertoire since he couldn't afford a car due to having to pay the rent on his own.

What the history books don't tell you is that Tommy did a lot of his best thinking while working out. (It appears that Tommy and I have that in common. One stark difference is that he was far better at remembering and recording his gibberish than I.) Most of his popular quotes were about sport.

Look at these Tommy quotes with translations immediately following:

"Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you." This was about race performance

"I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical." This was about the importance of speed work.

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude." This is about choosing to train instead of sleeping in.

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom." This was in response to why so many people set goals of qualifying for Kona yet fall short. It's a nice way of saying that you don't have the talent.

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." Liberty was Tommy's term for running.

Tommy, having given on females at this point, decided to join a tri-club. Philly had a huge club which included sports stars such as John Adams, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Ben Franklin. Samuel Adams provided refreshments for club meetings while the boys talked sport. Hancock was club secretary and near-sighted, which caused his writing to be at a larger font than desired. The guys got along famously!

Most of the ideas for the official Declaration of Independence were developed on group runs. They came up with this concept (as seen on the right) while out for a particularly frustrating workout. The Redcoats tried to tell them that they weren't allowed to run 2 abreast while on Chestnut Street. Once in a while, the books will state that he may have been 'running from the British', which is a gross misunderstanding of the truth. They were just out for a run. Running is life. Running is liberty. Running is happiness.

Tommy made it his mission to get a better pathway system on the Delaware and the Schuykill  Rivers, which still exist to this day. The British disapproved of this because they know that it's easier to defeat an enemy who is fat and lazy than one who is in shape in the 3 disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. Luckily, Tommy and his clan had more pull with the locals.

Tommy's excellent ideas and leadership skills were what finally made him popular with the ladies. Tommy married Martha, who was the first woman allowed in the Forefathers Tri-Club. They eventually moved back to Virginia so that Tommy could finally make the state's motto proud.

There's a rumor floating around that Tommy and Martha's bloodline is alive and strong. One of their kids may have moved out of mom and dad's basement and relocated to Pennsylvania. From there, it's pretty obvious that the Andy Potts is carrying around Jefferson DNA. But I'll let you decide.




















So there you have it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Triathlon's Little Surprises

It should come as no surprise that I'm a big fan of triathlon. There are lots of reasons. To name a few:

  • It keeps me healthy
  • It's 200% more fun than it's single sport constituents
  • It allows me to wear skintight clothing in public

And every once in a while, triathlon tosses me a surprise which boosts my admiration for sport. One recent such surprise happened this weekend at a tiny, local Olympic distance race affectionately called "A Tri in the Buff".

To be honest, the day didn't start off as pleasantly as I'd have wished. The park manager had cancelled the swim (more on this in a future post) so I walked into transition in a foul mood. ATITB and I do not have a good history together. If there's any race that I've flubbed up something, it typically happens here. I don't do it on purpose and I can't explain why. For instance, I've gone awry on the swim course. I've missed my turn on the bike course. I've actually ran on the run course. All of these were freak accidents. Right after they cancelled the swim, the name of the race magically transformed to "Du-ing It In The Buff" which sounds fun until you realize that they replaced the swim with yet another run. I had, at this moment, considered getting in my van and brooding all the way back home. But that was about a 2 hour drive and they promised hot dogs later. Sigh. I went searching for a spot to rack my bike.

So while I begrudgingly hunted for a place to set my wheels, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the incompetence of my fellow competitors who didn't understand that you are supposed to stagger on the racks. On one slot goes a bike facing east. The very next slot is now available for a bike pointed west. Continue ad infinitum or until the end of the rack. If you rack 3 slots away, you've messed up the system and made it nearly impossible for the late risers, such as myself, to get a spot on the rack. Sure, I could try and get there earlier but, since I'm an American, I'd prefer to blame everyone else and not myself. Regardless, my point still stands.

Luckily for me, one of the guys on the east side was a friend of mine. I was able to persuade him to move his bike over 1 slot, thus allowing me to finally place my bike and get set up for (crap, that's right) a run. In the slot immediately next to me was that of this cute unknown Asian woman. I had absolutely no idea how old this person was. Nor am I competent in my Asian identifying skills to pinpoint which region of Asia supplied the DNA she's inherited. (Note: I originally thought that she was Hawaiian. I learned differently later and had to project back to re-write my memory history. /End note) According to the stereotype meme, she could have been anywhere between 18 and 50. Granted, I could have just looked at her calf to see the number printed there but I didn't want my gaze direction to be mistaken, then to be labeled any more of a creep than what an overweight, middle-aged male with a penchant for wearing spandex in public already bears.

After setting up, I do what I typically do, ogle the ladies start talking to the people in my near vicinity to pass the time. See, they force you to get on race site ridiculously early then make you stand around and wait. Triathlon is many things awesome, time efficient is not one of them. (Also not on the list is triathlon's lack of ability to have a decent backup plan should the park manager cancel the swim.) Remember that friend who moved his bike? Well, we started chatting about the course and what to expect where. Since I've made pretty much every mistake in the book, most of them here, I was able to answer questions with utmost confidence. My rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman of indeterminate age was listening in with much attention.

Since I was the local expert, she gathered up the courage to even asked a few questions of her own. Most of her concerns were of the bike course, understandably since they took away the swim. (<-- okay, that might have been my last snipe on this topic, at least for this post. Might.) I laid out the route and included a couple of the tougher spots. When she asked if one of the turns was difficult to find, I simply told her that it all depended on how good of a runner she is. <Awkward silence in the conversation, which was a lot more apparent when reflecting on the talk.> Finally I added that her running prowess was probably moot since she's in the second wave of runners and there's bound to be at least 3 or 4 people who could out run her by 5 minutes over a 1.8 mile run 1. <Second awkward silence in as many minutes.>

The race got started, boys before girls, separated by 5 minutes. The turn around was about 0.9 miles away in an out-and-back format. I was plodding around in the 2nd group of plodders. About the 1.2 mile mark, the men were on their way back while the women were on their way out. And, really, it was just one woman. Yup, it was my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman runner of indeterminate age. At the half-mile mark, she was almost 2 minutes up on the field. I wasn't even that far behind the male run leaders. Yes, my ego started to kick in and I sped up in fear that I would be caught by this badass of a female specimen on the first leg. (Spoiler alert- at least that didn't happen.)

We went out onto the bike course, which was a slower day for the field compared to years past. I got passed by exactly zero people on the bike and passed several. By the time I started my official run, I estimated that I was in 8th place. We had a 2-loop run which started with that same out-and-back we did on the swim portion of the run. That portion of the course gave me an opportunity to try and validate my standing, which ultimately failed since there was more than one race happening and we had intermingled by this point. Of note, my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass runner of indeterminate age was roughly that same distance behind me as she was during the first leg of the trip. And she was gaining quickly. No ego surge would have saved me from that reality. She went by at about mile 2.5. I cheered for her in the form of, "Go rackmate," which actually came out less awkward than the silences back in transition would have led me to believe. She thanked me for the attention (which is also weird for me) and ran on.

After  I finished the run, I was hobbled up in the finish area coral attempting to breathe and suck down some water. Here comes my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass runner of indeterminate age looking as fresh as could be, wheeling her bike out of transition. I asked her how things went. She said that even after all those awkward silences, she still biffed the bike course. The bike course is a lasso with a really short handle. You ride up the handle, turn left, do the lasso-loop twice, and return to the transition area via the handle. She came down the handle after the first lap. Apparently, she had a gut feeling that something wasn't right, turned around and headed back onto the lasso. She reported that she'd lost about 30-40 seconds.

Since I was apparently the resident area guru on all things Du-ing It In the Buff, she was curious about the awards and if the prize was anything worth waiting around for. Her reasoning- she had a long drive ahead. Understandable, at least from my perspective. Typically, ATITB offered your run of the mill medal or trophy or trinket coupled with a little bit of swag. At some races by the same race company, they give away bottles of wine, but not at this venue. "I'm allergic to alcohol," she responds. <Third awkward silence of the day.>

While she was busy finding out about the awards and making a decision on her appearance at the ceremony, they posted the preliminary results. I went and searched for my name. The Banter=7th place overall and 6th amongst men. Not bad. My rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass alcohol-allergic runner of indeterminate age= 2nd place overall.

I told her of her placement and there was an immediate dismay in her eyes, which (I'm assuming) had nothing to do with my spandex. She asked by how much she lost. Luckily, I did look this up. Mostly because I wanted to see by how much I lost and by how much I got chicked. A brief mental math moment later told her about 2 minutes. She relaxed. "Phew, I thought that bike blunder cost me the win."

Later on, while perusing the internets, searching for something to keep me occupied, I looked up the race results. I do this after every race and scrutinize the performance. Then, I did something I have never done in the past. I searched for one of my competitors. Guess who? Sure enough, and I'm at least 58% sure of this, my rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass alcohol-allergic runner of indeterminate age is a professional triathlete. Here's a link to her website, from which I usurped her picture. I'll be rooting for her in the future.

Let's add this to the reasons I love triathlon. No other sport on the planet allows for a rackmate Asian-Hawaiian hottie woman badass alcohol-allergic runner turned professional triathlete of indeterminate age to commingle, ask questions, and embarrass on the course with riffraff like me in a podunk local race in the middle of nowhere NY. I'm only left wondering if she can swim...

Friday, July 1, 2016

Something New on Race Day

There's this colleague that I've recently started advising through the world of tri. In most practical terms, he's a more genetically gifted athlete than me. He's a faster swimmer. This is significant since I'm not that bad of a swimmer. He's definitely a better runner. This is insignificant since I'm a horrible runner. He owns a bike. He knows how to ride it, but not really how to train it and doesn't spend much time on it. This is his major downfall in sport and the only factor that will keep him and me competitive (although, at my current fitness levels, he still probably wins).

Recently he decided to toe the line at IM Syracuse 70.3- 2016 version. I, having done that race several times in the past, seemed like the perfect free resource for information. We talked for hours about a plan of attack. He shared dreams and visions of times. I encouraged caution, since it was his first attempt at the distance and he's way undertrained on the bike (re-read first paragraph). Based on 14 different variables and a formula that only I understand, we determined that a 5 hour to 5:10 half-ironman (HIM) was within his skill set... unless something major happened. He went 35 minutes slower than expected, including passing out twice.

As you can guess, something major happened. And that something was the exact same something that kills more athletes' races than all the world's collective mechanical failures combined. It resides right between the average athlete's left and right ears (although, there's a theory floating around out there that some people's neural material might be found elsewhere in their bodies). Some go into a race with no clue as how to go into a race. Others, despite going into a race with a solid plan, they decide to change something. In this particular athlete's situation, he drastically changed his nutrition. In case you didn't know, nutrition is kind of a deal in a HIM.

The NNORD Theory
An oft cited mantra in triathlon is "Nothing new on race day". I understand the sentiment behind the slogan. The major idea is that if you care at all about the race then you will have practiced for the race. Yes, there are plenty of people who are there for fun, don't care about the race, and, therefore, don't practice much. These are the same people who are having the time of their life and also couldn't care about their race time.

That doesn't come close to describing me. See, I have this other person in my noggin that tries to convince me that I might have some talent. Sure, the data suggests something completely different but that other guy me doesn't really like to analyze data. He's more emotive than logical. It's like living with a woman. If I trained as much as he seems to think I'm capable of, then he might have a point.

Regardless of who's right, most reputable, experienced, and wise athletes won't wait until race morning to test out stuff. And then there's me.

I've been doing tri for the better part of 18 years now and try stuff constantly on race day. That's because I do more than one race. Sure, if my entire season boiled doing to a single event, I'd have each and every detail down to a science. No stone would be left unturned. But that's not the way I structure my season. That means NNORD would apply to me as much of the next guy. But it doesn't.

This might seem kinda confusing. How can one practice and race at the same time? Well, since I'm rich and have a lot of disposable money sitting around I like racing, I use some races as practice arenas for the earmarked important races. Throughout the years, I've found it excessively difficult to recreate the anxiety, intensity, bowel movements and attitudity of a race. So, no matter how much I'd like to think I've gotten the details down, nothing prepares you for racing quite like racing. By the time I get to the self-proclaimed big race, I've finished turning stones during the practice races. See how that works?

What's on the Menu?
Tomorrow, I am converging on an olympic distance race referred to as "Tri in the Buff". I know what you're thinking- you do this race naked! (Don't ask me how I, umm, stumbled on this race. I don't want to show you my search history to prove it.) Nah. They're abbreviating Buffalo to make a nice play on words. Obviously, this race is held in a town called Brant, NY.

There are a couple of things I'm experimenting with during tomorrow's race. The first is one of those fandangled, spermy-looking aero helmets. This will mark my 3rd helmet option available to me. The first is a regular helmet. The second is an aero road helmet. Recently I found a pretty good deal on a semen head (again, don't ask for browser history), which is supposed to make me marginally speedier. Money well spent.

The second is I'm trying out a new race suit. I broke my old race suit. I was just too much man for that piece of thin, techno-fabric (probably due to an increase in overall calories resulting in more biomass than the suit was designed for). I'm pretty sure, when all is said and done, that I'll be looking like speedwalking Hal from Malcolm in the Middle.

Lastly, I'll be tying my bike shoes to the frame via rubber bands. I've read about this and seen others make an attempt (never stayed nor asked about the results of that attempt). It seems intriguing. And, since I already own the rubbers, this won't cost me anything.

Upon crunching all of the numbers (this is a regular me behavior), I expect that all of these changes should make me about 12 full seconds faster than if I went race normal. Regular me would be satisfied if that's the case. The other guy me still thinks I should have put more time into training. Ha- training to get faster- what does he know anyway?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Giving the Blogging Thing Another Try

I remember fondly the days of old. The days when I looked forward to coming up with nonsensical gibberish, laughing hysterically, and typing those thoughts in hopes that at least one other person might crack a smile (or at least continue reading until the end of the post without closing the window). I would hear rumors every once in a while that people I've never met actually read my posts in their entirety.

This is a good post
The problem was that I put too much pressure on myself. I would go for a ride, see a rock on the side of the road, and think "Hmm, I wonder if I can make a post out of that'. Aside: I completely ignored the fact that people have been making posts out of stone for years. End Aside. I would go for a run and think deep thoughts, like "If a blogger writes a post and nobody reads it, does it still count as a post?" and then try and craft a way to run the experiment. The trouble with the test are the impossible parameters of writing a post that's not really a post and getting no one to read it to try and prove your hypothesis. But, that's akin to data tampering and I didn't want to taint my reputation by becoming a blogger who purposely tried to write a post that nobody would read in an interesting fashion only to force them not to read it. The concept kinda imploded upon itself.

Thinking about blogging became a near obsession. Almost an addiction. I had delusions of legions of fans waiting by their computers with digital alarms by the ready, waiting the read the very thoughts that would spew from my keyboard in an attempt to help them waste more of their precious little available time. That's when I came to the conclusion that I might have been doing more harm than good. Think of how much better the collective world would be if people used an extra 10 minutes in the world being more efficient at life than sitting at their computer reading semi-entertaining internet goo. Let's see, that's 7.4 billion Earth inhabitants. all of which are potential readers and, therefore, must be included in the math. Aside 2: I'm conveniently ignoring the extra-terrestrial readers. I feel this is appropriate since we don't have even close to an accurate count as to how many of them are available or if they do the reading thing in the traditional method or if they can download the data directly into their thinking apparati. I wouldn't want to skew the data. Again, I'm concerned about my scientific blogger reputation. End Aside 2. Since 1 billion seconds is roughly 31 years, 251 days, 13 hours, 34 minutes (there's some margin of error here since there are leap years and I'm not sure if I started this set of calculations on a leap year or not, which also means I don't know how many leap years occurred in the middle of the calculation, so please just accept that number as a mostly inaccurate yet acceptable product for the unit of time), there's a lot of time available in the productivity bank.

When all is done, all the ones have been carried and all the readers taken into account, by not blogging I saved collective human race 234.6 years of wasted productivity. By not writing, the ability for mankind to accomplish more and really let technology soar should have been vastly increased. I'm expecting my invitation from the King of Sweden to come and collect my shiny new penny in the name of Economics to come in the mail any day now. ('Cause I'm pretty sure that's how they notify Nobel Prize winners these days.)

Alas, when you review what's been happening in the world, you'd find that productivity hasn't really increased in the way one would expect 200+ years in the future should have, or what Don Hertzfeld would have you believe. Trump versus Hillary running for President with people actually showing up to their rallies (if that's not a time waster, I don't know what is). The Olympics getting ready to open in a third world Rio (certainly 234 years could have been used to build a nice, clean Olympic venue by now). Britain quitting Europe (I'm pretty sure they're plotting to re-conquer the world, or at least start a new music invasion). McDonald's employees successfully rallying to get a $15 minimum wage with regard to the trickle-down effect on the local businesses or using that time to learn a marketable skill. Chris Hadfield is no longer in space (not sure how to tie this in with productivity other than it really is a shame).

The only things I've learned from not blogging is that people aren't likely to start using their free time more productively regardless of what I do. It's as if I have no actual control over the happenings of the world. Who knew? That and it's highly likely that Nobel Foundation doesn't use the US Post Office to contact potential recipients and they probably don't have my email address. Oh well, I guess I'll try writing again and be ready to accept the blame for the woes of the world.