Monday, January 31, 2011

Swimming versus "Swimming"

I'm gonna try and start swimming next week. Contrary to most athletes/ Americans, I don't find swimming all that difficult. I started swimming back in high school. I swam in college. I swam after college. I enjoy it. Gives me time to think. I don't do it much because I suck at biking and running and because I hate getting in my car and driving to workout. I really would love to put a pool in my basement. Then I would swim daily. Also, I'd get to reap the benefits of the free cologne that comes with every workout.

I'm pretty sure that my swimming prowess was one of the driving factors that led to a life of triathloning. Granted that I am not as fast as I used to be (not that I was ever 'fast' in the hs/ college competitive sense) nor as serious about my times. I suppose that if I trained harder I might knock off as much as 3-5 whole minutes in an Iron distance event and almost 1 minute in something shorter. Yet, the bike and run seem to be the way to bigger time gains. Swimming, in all its glory, gets de-prioritized. Unfortunately, in triathlons of any distance, the power of swimming is grossly under appreciated.

Wife's suit optional
I have friends that still regard the stuff you do in a backyard pool as 'swimming'. It so happened that one day, ages ago, a friend (back before I was a triathlete and still had friends) asked me to go swimming. Since I'm a swimmer, this appealed to me. Yes. I'll do it. I have a bag pre-packed with swimming gear. Goggles- yes. Shampoo/ conditioner- yes. Paddles- yes. Buoy- yes. Nutrition- yes. Man, we were going to have a great workout! Much to my chagrin that we ended up in his backyard. Why was I the only one with a speedo? Do I really need to do flip turns in a 15' diameter, round, plastic tub filled with water? They have snorkels, is that allowed? Why didn't I add sunscreen to my gear bag? How many laps in this thing equals 100 yards? Where's the deck clock? Where's the deck?

These questions went greatly unanswered but I was determined to get in a good workout. I got started. Push off the wall near the ladder. Glide. Stroke once. Breathe. Flip. Crap, you're not supposed to breathe on the last stroke before the turn. I hope no one was watching. Glide. Stroke. Flip. Crap. Did it again. This is the first hypoxic warm-up of my life. Glide. Stroke. Flip. Crap. Someone had to have seen that. Coach is going to kill me.

Had I known I was going to be a triathlete, I would have chalked this up to practicing for a mass swim start. "Cannonball!" was announced and greeted with a tsunami. Back then, I was just annoyed. I had shared the pool with the diving team. They knew how to wait for a open space before prancing off their bouncy thingy into the deep end. Was there a deep end in this thing? I forgot to look. Either way, this diver-wanna be completely skewed my only stroke for this lap. Patience Banter, we'll work out a system. Out of nowhere, hands grabbed my shoulders and yanked me up. This was more than some loser tapping my feet signaling a pass. Way over the line.

Popular version of 'swimming'
Okay, I now know that most people's view of swimming is splashing around in water, throwing toys, sword fighting with flaccid noodles, and senseless horseplay. Fun but not really a workout. Sometimes, their version of swimming includes not moving at all, it's just sitting on some sort of inflatable. I actually had to go out and purchase trunks for such occasions. Big, baggy things with pockets and a mesh lining (seriously, what in the world does the mesh do anyway?). Do you realize that you cannot find trunks without flowers? Nowadays, you can't even find them in a length above your knees. Caution- I feel a rant coming on...

When did men's fashion relegate that 'shorts' had to be 3/4 length affairs? When women wear them, they are called 'capris'. Yet modern fashion has decided that a man's beastly hairy jams be hidden so that only the calf is showing and even the calf tends to be covered with socks. The word 'shorts' means just that- short. My legs are works of art not to be shunned from society just because the experts think it's cool. I am not an animal.

Even going to the pool now, I have switched from traditional speedos to jammers. I am not sure why there is a negative stigma for swimmers wearing swimming gear in public. Cyclists can relate. I go to the Y and I have added cover-up shorts to my pre-packed bag. It's not that I am ashamed, but when in Rome...
Left side please
I'll definitely go to the pool. Since I've not been in the water for months, I'm gonna start off light and slow. I am secretly ashamed that my entire planned workout was once considered the warm-up. I will practice patience and focus on what's important. At least there are won't be  flowers, mesh, or pockets on my suit.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Week in Review

It’s been a tough week for training. Here was my schedule…I was scheduled for 12 hours of cardio. 
This included 3 swims, 5 bike rides and 5 runs. Plus, it’s exam week at school. Several of my kids are 
taking state exams and I promised them extra time after school on Monday to help cram as much 
worthless knowledge into their brains as possible review for those tests. Also, on Tuesdays and 
Thursdays I tutor a struggling student. He’s still struggling but hopefully improving. I am the shot 
clock keeper for home basketball games. We had a game scheduled on Tuesday after tutoring. 
Grades and report cards are due soon and I have to grade papers and midterms. Oh, I was hoping 
to get in a witty blog post or two.  On top of that, I've got my country's five hundredth anniversary 
to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder, and Guilder to frame for it. I was swamped. 
Well, I missed out on 2 swim sessions, preferring to sleep. The game on Tuesday was canceled. 
The students all passed their state exam. Took Wednesday off to recover. Did an awesome 13-
mile run on  Thursday. I did manage to get in a blog post. Grading is mostly done. I’ve still got 
my health, right?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Darwin's Theory of Triathlon

I'm pretty sure Charles Darwin was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that he died a good 140 years before the sport was invented. A little known fact: Darwin's Book 'On the Origin of Species' was originally called the 'On the Origin of Triathlon' but he was under pressure by the British government to focus his efforts on biological understanding in lieu of multisport.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... Charles Darwin was a doctor who hated medicine so he took the first chance he could get to go on a cruise. The HMS Beagle was hired by the WTC to plot suitable locations for 140.6 and 70.3 distance races in the Southern Hemisphere, as you can see by this map.
HMS Beagle's Possible Ironman Locations
The crew of the Beagle was into endurance multisport events and took the opportunity to swim and run as often as they could. Biking was exceptionally difficult, but luckily the captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitzroy (right), was a certified spinning instructor. The deck of the Beagle was littered with spinning bikes and the crew often neglected their sailing duties to get in a good workout. Keep in mind that this was in the old days when multisport was a gentleman's sport and clothing technology was not up to today's standards. Notice in the file photo that the cycling outfit is not very tight, the shoes definitely did not have quick release or velcro, and this was the admiral's first attempt at an aero helmet. The cane was required by the USAT to enforce the no-drafting rule, which was one meter at the time. He admitted in one post-race interview of being "a bit warm on the bike" and was considering using lighter colored garments as well as possibly removing some of the base layers.

Now, Darwin himself was an excellent runner but was never a podium finisher athlete despite his best effort. He struggled on the bike. As he was embarrassed by his cycling ability, he did not normally join the group rides. Still, he was an outstanding coach and paid close attention to the way the athletes trained and recovered. He also noted that if an athlete trained in isolation, as sailors are wont to do, then their ability improve was hindered. These observations were later confirmed through VO2 max and lactate threshold tests. The data were omitted due to sketchy lab techniques that athletes today are still quoting, such as Landis' accusations against Lance.

Darwin recorded that, when the same athlete trained in a group, the entire group benefited from the interaction. Particularly interesting to Darwin was the way the athletes fought over the best bike before spinning class. The best bike just happened to be front and center for 2 reasons: 1. It was closest to the admiral of whom all the sailors wanted attention. 2. The bikers on the sides were prone to be cast overboard after an awkward swell. The sailors scurrying for the best available bikes was described in detail in a chapter that was cut by the editors and the basis of Darwin's concept "struggle for resources." Because so many sailors died on those lost and lonely deck sessions, the remaining crew was in wicked good shape. These observations helped Darwin coin the phrase, "Survival of the Fittest".

Darwin's Survival of the Mass Swim Start
Darwin took his time and formulated a training plan that encouraged large numbers of participants.  He discovered that the maximum number for any given session was roughly 2000. The WTC took this under consideration and decided to stretch enrollment in an effort to increase income. Based on Darwin's recommendations, the mass swim start at Ironman events remains the norm and would not have been possible without Darwin's influence.

Because NBC had not yet started their Ironman coverage on TV, most of the population remained ignorant of Triathlon's Natural Selection. Darwin was struggling to sell books and desperate for cash. He had considered a racing program in which participants could pay $10 (roughly the equivalent of $1000 by today's standards) to allow racers to cut in line at registration for certain events. He wrote about this idea but abandoned it solely on the principle that it was absurd and morally unjust. He unfortunately never destroyed the document.  It was later unearthed in 2010. Another concern of Darwin's was the ability of the Australians to excel in sports such as swimming and triathlon. Since he loved England, he didn't want a larger (yet inferior to him) island to reap the benefits of his work. He sent a copy of his original book to Chrissie but the press leaked the publication. Luckily, Darwin did not survive to see the 2010 season to its completion.

Darwin learned that the people of his age were largely sedentary yet enjoyed animals and stories about animals. Reality TV had not been invented at this time. Darwin took advantage of the people's love for animals and adapted his training philosophies to match that of all organisms.  He made up some gibberish about finches' in the Galapagos Islands ability to match the characteristics of their environment. People bought into the evolutionary theory that living things adapted to the world in which they lived. If it had not been for triathlon, evolution would have never been born.

The original cover of the book and its intended graphic, sort of an inside joke of Darwin's that he would eventually conquer his cycling issues. It was deleted by publishers moments before printing...

Darwin's cover art now seen at

Charles Darwin, the Father of Evolution, relied on triathlon to develop one of the most informative and powerful theories in the history of the sport.

There is a rumor floating that Ironman Co-Founder John Collins may actually be descended (on his mother's side) from Charles Darwin. You decide.

John Collins

Charles Darwin
So there you have it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cause and Effect of Training

At 10:30 AM...
Effect- Moved on to my second cup

At 1:15 pm (Note: Even the dogs aren't enjoying the weather)...

Not improving outside

Finished book. Moved on to free subscription of LAVA

At 8:30 pm...


Moved on to a more adult beverage

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Banter to Base Camp

Way back in October, my 2010 season had officially died. There were simply no more races to be had within reasonable driving distance. I could have done duathlons. But without the swim, what's the point? Regular road races are not even close to triathlons. I would love to have more races late in the season but it doesn't seem to be happening. Due to the high specific heat of water, nearby lake temperatures were comfortable even if the air temperature was gradually declining. Still, triathlon in the upper part of the United States gets risky after the direct rays drop into the Southern Hemisphere. Race directors don't seem to want to host a triathlon in the snow, which is not common in October but also not unheard of. Race season, regardless of my wishes, had been shelved.

Despite my love for training, there are times when this love is overshadowed by something easier: utter laziness. I get why 'not-training' is the norm in our society. It gives you time to catch up on all the things you want to do but miss out on while training is happening. These include (if I understand the population correctly): couch sitting, eating, TV watching, bad movie watching, eating, napping, avoiding chores, eating, Facebooking, Tweeting, eating, and simply not moving. Back in October, I decided to try this out. I failed.

During my down time, I hung out on my computer and for some reason did some advanced planning. I could have been more productive with my time by browsing the Net for useless information or typing a marginally comical on-line blog, but I decided that the inactivity was driving me crazy. If I am not going to workout I can at least think about working out. So I opened up Excel and calculated backwards from July 24, 2011. This is my big day, Ironman Lake Placid and most of my focus goes into succeeding at that race. I outlined my schedule for pre-season, base training, build training, race training, and taper. I assigned hours and intensities for each. This took a couple of days (I'm a bit neurotic and since I haven't had the success I want at IMLP, something's gotta change). When it was completed in all its glory,  I saved this document to my desktop. Mind you, I hate stuff on my desktop. I've seen people whose computer screen is littered with pictures, files, folders, and (for lack of a better word) crap. They can't find anything should their lives depend on it. I'm not trying to be judgmental, it's just not for me. Currently, my desktop has one file- my training plan.

I'm also not stupid enough to worship this plan. It's more of an outline and less of a bible. However, there are certain benchmarks to which I should adhere and I have full intention on keeping. Well, according to the plan, Base Training has officially begun.

What's the difference between BT and the rest of the stuff that I've been doing thus far? Good question, thanks for asking. So far, training has been mostly general. Seat time on the trainer. Miles on the ice/ road. Basically, I've been trying to recover from the October laziness and work my way up to about 11 hours per week. Now, according to certain references, I probably should be doing about 13 weekly and maxing out around 19. I am happy with my current state so I won't obsess (much). In BT, I get to start working on my weaknesses.

Weaknesses? How could the Banter have any weaknesses? Well, endurance hasn't been much of a problem. I've been into endurance for quite some time. But, I also hail from Indiana. If you are unfamiliar with the state, let me paint a picture. Think flat. Think farms. Think corn. There's a little bit more to Indiana, but not much. Indiana is at the edge of the Great Plains and had been further flattened by glacial activity no less than 3 separate times during the Pleistocene Era. These large masses of ice carved the Great Lakes and left the rest of the state barren and smooth. The corn showed up on its own and Indians enjoyed the sustenance. Get it? Indians. Indiana. Careful, they now prefer Native Americans, as is my understanding. Later farmers moved into the area during the colonial times to take advantage of the Indians Native Americans who were taking advantage the land. High Fructose Corn Syrup had its path laid out to reap havoc on our diet.

Now, let's think of Lake Placid. LP is nestled in upstate New York and in the mid-Adirondack region. It is a beautiful place which may be the reason it has hosted 2 winter Olympics. LP's geology is mired in collisions between ancient but fused tectonic plates last active in the mid-Proterozoic Eon. To put this in perspective, Indiana's first glaciers hit about 700,000 years ago. Lake Placid's plates hit about 1 billion years ago. The result of this collision was terror beyond imagination as the rocks are distorted, stretched, pulled, and forced up from their hidey-hole beneath the surface into jagged shards of death. Luckily, Mother Nature has had a billion years to polish the tops and remove most of the sharp edges. It's still quite hilly. And that's the real problem, the hills. I pick IMLP due to proximity. It destroys me due to topography.

Therefore, Base Training has become about the hills. Build training will be about the hills. Race training will be about the hills. Training on the trainer will be about the hills. Biking will be about the hills. Running will be about the hills. Swimming will be about the hills (okay, I made that last one up, just to see if you were paying attention). Pre-season is about time. BT is about structure and focus. And, since I did all of that planning back in October, I might as well give it a try. So, happy first week of base training. I hope to post/ comment on how things are going if for no other reason than I think somebody else might hold me accountable on those weeks when I'm pansying out of training for useless reasons. Keep me honest.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last Chance-Bad Movie Contest

If you have followed the Banter, you would know that winter begets indoor biking which begets movie watching on the trainer. Last week, I started a Bad Movie Contest.  The response to said contest has been completely underwhelming, which is to say exceeding expectations. Imagine the high levels of motivation to enter a contest which offers exactly 1 non-monetary prize: Eternal Glory in the Tri-Banter Bad Movie Hall of Fame. You will be immortally enshrined as the awesomeness that is you, simply for nominating a bad movie for me to watch.

Does this sound appealing? I sure hope so. Get your submission(s) ready as you are behind. There are already a few propositions on the board...

  • "Nice Girls Don't Explode" as submitted by Kenestral.
  • "Thankskilling" as unofficially submitted by Alanna
  • "Waterworld" as requested by Austin (which violates rule number 4 and, by default, is withdrawn from the contest)

For a deeper understanding of how to recognize a Bad Movie, click here.

For Movie Contest Rules, click here. (Be sure to read the sample review. Contest rules at the bottom.)

Here is your chance to be Royalty. As a prize, I offer up my free will to your submission. Add a comment to this post and you are in the running to control my life and force me to watch a horrifically bad film. Your suggestion will go to the Tri-Banter Bad Movie Committee (very small committee, mind you), which will look at the description and movie title and make a selection as to which choice will offer the most pain. You wouldn't want to miss out on this opportunity.

Did I mention that entering the contest is absolutely FREE? That's right, there is no risk and all reward. The deadline to submit a bad movie is Wednesday. Don't miss out. Act fast as time is ticking.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter-Training Superiority Over Fair-Weather Training

I would like to believe that I am an optimist, especially when it comes to triathlon. I have drive. I have motivation. I have no social life. See, I am a triathlete. I have read enough literature and made enough mistakes to be confident that I will improve from one season to the next. I enjoy almost everything about the sport. I like the competition. I like the challenge. I even like training. You know the old saying, "If you became a billionaire and didn't have to work for the rest of your life, what would you do with your time? Do that." Well, I would still be a triathlete, albeit a much faster one with a better bike. If anyone would like to give me a billion dollars to test this hypothesis, I will be a willing participant. You will be the Tester and I will be the Testee. I have no problem with that. Billions of dollars or not, I am a big fan of the sport and what it offers me.

When it comes to training, there are really 2 seasons, regardless of what the guy on the news tells you. There is Fair-Weather Training Season and Winter-Weather Training Season. Fair-Weather Training means that you probably won't die from exposure just by being out in the elements. Winter-Weather Training is, well, self-explanatory. It zaps everything positive in the world and condenses it like the snow that falls from the sky.

In case you didn't notice, I struggle with winter. Well, its not really winter that's the problem, it is more of a angst against the cold and the infernal white stuff that floats down from the sky, removing the color from the ground and erasing friction. I struggle with the knowledge that snow is water crystals that have formed around a kernel of pollution. It may look white and pure but in reality it's just all the spew of factories and machinery gift-wrapped and delivered to my neighborhood. Don't believe me? Then pay attention to how the snow looks in March and April when those large piles in the grocery store parking lot start to melt. I have a hard time being optimistic about a season which forces me to be inside for all of my biking.  I know, there's a few of you out there who won't let a little thing like unsafe conditions, howling winds, freezing temperatures, lack of sunlight, and bike corrosion stop your ride. I, however, do not recommend winter biking.

Since I race in the summer, I would prefer the most summer like conditions. Summer is nice. The angle of the Earth provides us with free light and abundant free heat. Our bodies make their own Vitamin D simply by allowing sunlight to touch our skin. Winter bundles me up in an ungodly amount of clothing just for a simple run. Summer garb does not include: tights, running pants, base layer shirt, turtle-neck, long-sleeved shirt, jacket, gloves, ear bands, extra socks, and special spikes on your shoes. Disgusting.

Now that I am a blogger, I have a new outlook on a variety of things. One of which is my attitude towards winter. Everything has its positives and negatives. I have been obsessed with the latter when comes to winter workouts and should be more former. So, during a recent run, I let my brain wander on the topic, giving me a distraction from the ice forming on my hair and the burning feeling encroaching my cheeks (take your pick). I was able to ignore the fact that my pace was reduced drastically whilst my heart rate was climbing. I placed the thought to the back of my mind that the cars to my right had a dry, well-paved road as opposed untreated ice rink recently called a side walk on which I was forced to jaunt. I became completely oblivious to the mounds of plow build-up blocking each drive and intersection allowing me to practice hurdles onto a seemingly pillow of white/ black ice. Nope, I had none of these thoughts.

I forced myself to analyze the light side of this dark and dismal run. My goal was to come up with the pros for winter running. I wanted to discover the positives. The motivation. The reasons that winter running, mile for mile, might actually be beneficial to fair-weather running. And it worked! It was as if the entire knowledge of the universe was focused into this single thought process. The Unifying Theory of the Universe, the single equation that explains everything known and unknown to man, suddenly made itself apparent. Einstein, Sagan, Greene, Hawking...Ha. If any of you would have tried running in the cold, you would have solved this problem ages ago.

As the thoughts started flowing, I had a fear that my thought parade might not actually conclude before the end of the run. I was concerned that a 6 miler at 7:45/mile pace (add in some time for the conditions and extra weight) might not be able to contain the entire process. I was nervous that the genius which was flowing from my gray matter might be cut short before reaching its destination. Was this theory to rule all theories to be relegated to my short-term memory cells and then discarded like running shoes after their 501st mile? To be honest, I was genuinely worried.

All of those thoughts were fleeting as evidenced by this post. I was able to complete my run, de-ice my garments and mane, thaw my skin, peel my layers, and shed my doubts. I refueled my calories and my desire to record and share with you, the Bantee (since I am the Banter), the wisdom that evolved from my run. After all that enlightening, run may not be the appropriate word. Perhaps 'zen while moving' would be more precise. I have discovered the light and can say, beyond all doubt, that not only am I a triathlete but now I am an optimist in regards to winter running.

So, to make a long story longer, I am ready to impart everything that you ever need know about winter running's superiority over summer training. It is unbelievably amazing and though you might not do it now, somewhere, deep in your heart in the future, you will thank me for this. If you are not a believer now, the light bulb will surely illuminate for you later in life and it will all come back to this moment. This is the monumental factor that will be emblazoned in your subconscious to apply itself at a time when you most desperately need it. Tomorrow, you will be a different person. At the very minimum, you will be an optimist. At most, you will be a ruler of your own personal kingdom and a deity in your mind. There will be no need to thank me. As an athlete, triathlete, teacher, and coach, I am happy to have made a difference in your life. That knowledge alone is thanks enough and I sleep well at night knowing that I have made an impact.

Here we go, summed up for you, the reasons why winter training is superior to fair-weather training. I have decided to put it in layman's terms as there are a few technical details and this is not a technical blog. If you wish to have a more detailed description, please comment. I will re-post with the details, but I promise, it won't be pretty. Where was I? Oh yeah, I was about to give you the knowledge. Brace yourself. I suggest you get something of a recording device. Write this down and post it for eternal viewing. I also think it's a good idea to sit down if you weren't already. If you have children, send them out of the room. The information is not dangerous, but I don't want them to see you cry when you realize the truth and the weight of the burden which I am ready to impart...

Reasons Winter Training is Superior to Fair-Weather Training

The season after this one will not be winter!

Any questions?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Obscure Training Advice- Running

I consider myself a veteran of the sport. I have no idea if the title actually applies, but I’ve been triathloning for roughly 12 years. All of that has been self-coached. This may sound impressive, but in all reality, I’ve made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. Big mistakes. Small mistakes. Medium mistakes. There’s a good chance that I’ve made more mistakes than the average guy. But, I also have a science background, which is to say that I am a nerd. Science nerds don’t get deflated by mistakes, they learn and try again. Which begets more mistakes. Which begets more learning. Which…okay, you get the point.

After mistaking/ learning enough, you get confident that you know enough to start imparting your mistake wisdom onto others. Unfortunately, lots of other people have already started this process. Curse that infernal Internet and the information age in which we now live, my niche on the computer has been usurped by countless others who have probably made more mistakes that me and are definitely smarter (nerdier?). That doesn’t mean I won’t try.

Let’s play a game:
Question 1- If you want good training advice, where can you look?
Answer- If you answer Tri-Banter, then you have deluded yourself, because its not here. Check out the giants of the sport, such as the Friels, the Scotts (take your pick), the Nation, the Greenfield, and many more. They are making a living at selling advice. Some of it is quite good.

Question 2- What advice can I actually provide for you that they can’t?
            Answer- Obscure Training Advice/ Tips. These are the minutia detalia. They are so miniscule that the big boys and girls can’t sell them in their books or on their sites. For example:

Obscure Running Tip:
            Criterion 1- Running in the dark
            Criterion 2- Running outside
Criterion 3- Availability of a sidewalk

Which way do you run?

Suppose it’s wintertime. If you are running outside, then there’s a good chance it’s dark. The sun is only up for little more than 8 hours anyway and most of us work for a living, or occupy our time doing something that resembles work anyway. If you are a morning person or afternoon person, the conditions are relatively similar, dark or almost dark. Humans in general are uncomfortable with the dark. Darkness is the root of all evils such as Satan and Ozzy Osborn. Darkness steals the ability of our light receptors mounted below our foreheads’ ability to do their job properly. We try to banish our Vader with a little bit of our own Yoda that we call lights (see, Stars Wars reference to solidify my nerdship). We put lights everywhere, including on the athlete’s number one nemesis, cars.

Let’s assume that you are going for a run and it’s dark outside. There’s bound to be cars as they are everywhere. Now, you are ready to pick your route. You are a safe runner. You need to make a decision on your direction.

Here’s the tip: Run on the sidewalk with traffic instead of against traffic. The reason why- Should you decide to run against traffic, the lights closest to you will be in your eyes. This is especially apparent when it’s just you, the car, and its high beams. If you run with traffic, the lights of the vehicles closest to you will be at your back. The lights of the vehicles coming at you will be across the street. The vehicles at your back will illuminate your path. Those pesky high beams will allow you to see further. Make the cars work FOR you, not against you.

Running is fun and challenging. I can’t imagine why you’d want to purposefully blind yourself. Yes, running and not seeing is also a challenging sport, one that I’d prefer to avoid at this time.

I hope you have learned a little from this Obscure Training Advice. Check back later so that I can enlighten you further and help you avoid making more of the mistakes I have endured.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bad Movie Review

Welcome to the Bad Movie Review.

If your a regular follower of the Banter, I thank you. It's hard to believe I have a regular follower(s) after only a week of posting, therefore, you are AWESOME! For the others that have just stumbled upon it, welcome aboard (you are equally awesome, just so you know). I hope to entertain you for a long time in the future.

In an earlier post, I shared with you how to recognize a bad movie. Check it out here.  First, a disclaimer: I will discuss a bad movie. Get that. It is b.a.d. Second, a spoiler. I will probably give you the gist of the movie and spoil the ending. Third, just because it was bad does not mean I don't recommend it. Quite the opposite. I am encouraging it.

I watch a lot of movies while on the bike trainer. Many of the titles are new to me. Some are actually quite good. Not this one. Today's bad movie is entitled, "Dark Rising".  It was immediately obvious that this was a bad movie based on the previously established rules. It broke rules #1-4, 6. I have not had the guts to check out rule #5. The premise:

A young girl goes missing. Many years later, a group of 20-somethings (beautiful people) seance her back from the dimension in which she was cast as a lass. One of the male characters is in love with one of the females, but she is in a relationship with one of the other females. The last female 20-something wants to be a witch and buys a book on summoning. Witch girl, who is in pig-tails the entire film, takes the group on a camping trip, summons the missing young girl, who was presumed dead. (Oh, there's also a buff guy, who happens to be an obnoxious friend of the male lead, but is completely useless to the entire scenario.) But, the young girl has grown up and spent her entire childhood until now fighting demons. Apparently, the best way to fight demons is with an axe, knife, and bikini. Upon coming through the dimension, a demon comes with and wreaks havoc on the camping trip. The only way to cast out the demon is to re-open the portal and force the demon through, which was done by the male lead character to show his manliness. The demon-fighter bikini girl finally gets home, the evil lesbians die, and the male lead returns as a prince of the other dimension who needs help in fighting an entire legion of ugly demons. Bikini girl is more than willing to help in the fight and immediately falls in love with prince boy. Good stuff.

From the onset of the movie, it's tough to tell if these are professional actors or randomly selected people from the J.C. Penny catalog. Other problems with the film:
  • It has B-movie level effects without the B-movie budget.
  • It has, best to memory and not indicative that I was counting, 3 separate scenes of unnecessary nudity all involving the same character.
  • The male characters are constantly wearing jeans and full sleeves while the female characters, at most, are wearing shorts and half-shirts, and a bikini.
  • None of the fight scenes give the illusion that actual contact was made between fist/axe/knife and adversary.
  • Tons of cheesy trying-too-hard-to-be-funny lines. Such as Him: Give the the axe, I'll kill the demon. This is my new manly side. Her: Since when? Him: It's new. I'm trying it out and I'll let you know how it goes.
  • Did I mention that the female lead character is never seen without her bikini?
  • Something was rising in this movie and I am quite certain it wasn't the dark.
I highly recommend you watch this bad movie. It has action, adventure, plot, beautiful people, and (apparently) a sequel. Advice for you should opt to see it...
-Ignore the obvious badness and focus on the positives. I try to think of the old, classic show "Mystery Science Theater 3000". They excelled at watching bad movies and made the best of it.
-Do not watch this movie while wearing bike shorts, especially if you are male. (Some lessons are learned the hard way through experience.)
-Do watch this movie if you live in a fraternity house and are in need of a good, drunken laugh.

It is, at this point, that I am interested starting a bad-movie contest. The rules:
1. The movie must be a new title to me. I've seen a bunch of bad movies from the 80s, not too many since then.
2. The movie must violate at least 2 of the rules. More violations are better.
3. The movie cannot violate the Kevin Costner rule (see Rule #4). There may be a Katherine Heigl rule added at any time.
4. A description of the movie, in 100 words or less, must be given in an effort to convince me to watch it.

I will select the best (or worst, based on perspective) bad movie, watch the movie, and give a detailed synopsis in the future (hopefully 2 weeks or less, depending on the response), complete with accolades for the recommender. I've got lots of biking to do before Ironman Lake Placid and since I don't want to risk outdoor biking in this climate, I've got lots of movies to watch. In the future, I hope to have prizes but I may be getting ahead of myself. Let the games begin.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New System for Determining Race Dates

The current system for scheduling races is in dire need of an overhaul. There are too many variables in outdoor racing that need to be accounted for before the gun, whistle, or, in some cases, a loud-mouthed guy goes off. One of the variables is an inhospitable climate. Therefore, I propose a new system for determining a race date. The title of my creation, Training Degree Days.

In an ideal world, I would sign up for a race and the race date would be determined by the number of nice training days. Bad weather? Doesn't count. Freezing temperatures? Doesn't count. Wind speeds at plus 35 mph? Tornado warning? Hail? Visiting mother-in-law? Doesn't count. Granted, there are some holes in this hypothesis and it's still work in progress, but you'll get the gist of it. There are working models behind the concept.

Working model #1: Heating Degree/ Cooling Degrees Days- the government and energy companies use this model to calculate the amount of energy needed to heat or cool buildings. See, here in America, we have a low tolerance for discomfort. If the house temperature is above 75º, we turn on the air conditioner. Should the residence drop below 65º, on goes the heat. Apparently, our comfort level for life is roughly +10º, much like training. One way energy companies use HDD/ CDD to calculate the average cost of energy for people who opt for fixed monthly fees. As athletes, our tolerance for outdoor training mimics that of the average American. Low temperatures equal no-training or it's evil cousin, indoor training. High temperatures also yield a lack of or reduced training. Training Degree Days would set a temperature range of comfortable outdoor training days.

Working model #2: Growing Degree Units- Most of us learned in the elementary school classroom that plants grow quickly in the warm, slowly in the cool, and stop in the cold. Plant scientists have created a formula to aid in calculating the amount of time a plant will arrive at maturity. Plants tend to grow at temperatures above 45º. This serves at the base for plant growth. Temperatures above this base encourage plant growth while temperatures below halt growth. Higher temps equate to faster growth rates. There is an upper limit to plant growth rate, somewhere around 85º depending on the species and variety. Simplistically, if you take the average temperature for the day and compare it to the base, you get GDUs. Hopefully, by now, you can see the correlation between growing flora and training. Athletes have a base that they will head outside and an upper limit for when they will not train. Skip the growth and it becomes TDUs.

How does this apply towards racing? Suppose I sign up for a race, say an Ironman or 140.6 (for WTC haters). Instead on announcing a race date, the race director announces, for example 60 local TDDs from January 1st. A race with with 60 TDDs post 1/1 scheduled in Arizona will start long before a 60 TDD race scheduled in Minnesota. The TDDs are calculated based on race site climate, not athlete residence climate. The race website would be required to display, on their home page, an up-to-date calculation of TDDs.

Using the TDD system would allow for a more level training field. TDDs encourage healthy training habits. Under the current system, athletes force themselves to train under the worst, non-race-like conditions. Gone will be the days of training for a summer race while there is ice on the road. Thick balaclavas designed for sherpas will be relegated to the past. All entrants can look across the starting line and ensure that they had an equal chance of success as compared to their competitors.

The TDD system allots for secondary benefits as well. Travel costs may be reduced as athletes would choose local races over those that have differing TDDs. This equates to lowered pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and local money staying in the local economy. TDDs will help the local athlete community become more cohesive.

Forward this message on to your local USAT representative. Make sure it is an election year and let's get the process started. Change is good and you have the power to make it happen.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Recognition of a bad movie

Winter means indoor biking. I have never heard of an indoor cyclist who put forth minutes on the trainer without some form of entertainment. The techies will have one of those computer training programs linked between the bike and monitor. They have digital courses on screen and automatically adjust the trainer resistance to mimic hills. Feedback from the software will match power output and heart rate data by the second and they can re-watch the entire training session from the computers point of view.

Others of us are poor. Luckily, I have enough money to rent movies from one of those places that send movies in the mail. They have thousands of movies to choose from, most of which I have never heard of. I have an open mind and am willing to try new things. That's the culture of triathletes anyway. Despite the availability of movies on the system, I loathe spending the time to research the good movies from the bad. I have been known to randomly pick films based on the site's recommendations. My queue currently lists over 80 titles and I haven't logged on for a few months now. Many of those I selected last winter and just haven't watched yet. I am often surprised when a new movie shows up. I don't remember picking it. Doesn't matter. The trainer awaits and the movie will be watched. Through experiential analysis, I have learned to immediately tell the difference between a good movie and a bad one before pushing play (again, I will still be watching it). I shall impart this knowledge upon you.

How can you tell if you rented a bad movie before you start watching? Here are some clues...

1. There is no studio disclaimer. The views and comments blah blah blah expressed are not necessarily blah blah blah representative of the studio, workers, or its parent company. As if we really thought that the mental spewing of the actors or producers matched that of the CEO of Universal studios, let alone those of the staff working at NBC (the parent company of Universal, in case you didn't know).

2. There are no previews. You put the disk in the player and the first thing that pops up is the main menu. There's a reason that previews start playing without any additional work from you. Hollywood is all about attention and self-promotion. No need to waste 10 minutes advertising movies on a film that no one will watch anyway.

3. Lack of subtitles. Most (not all) major movies will have paid someone to type up the script, watch the movie, and graphically place the words synchronized with spoken language. Some will even incur the additional expense of translating the movie into other languages like Spanish, French, or Swahili. Bad movies, typically, won't bother.

4. Read the description. If the words 'scantily clad', 'bikini warrior', or 'Kevin Costner' show up, there's a high probability that the movie is bad. The latter will not actually get watched.

5. Straight to DVD sales. That's right. Some movies were so bad that the studio didn't even bother watching them, let alone attempt to put them on the big screen. However, since they spent money making the movie, the studio tries to make up a budget deficit by copying it to a DVD and selling it for cheap. Most movie-affectionados won't buy this movie for themselves. They tend to purchase these movies for friends and family, mostly those that they don't like too much but are obligated to gift anyway.

6. Low to non-existent special features. Look at the main menu. It generally has at least Play Movie, Set-Up, Scene Selection and Special Features options. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes action not shown in the movie. The stars and the director have quips that you need to hear. The costume person has a talent for accurate designs. There's so much more to learn about the era. Special features not there-indicative that the director wasted his entire <coughing> "talent" on the movie or that the studio didn't give them an extra $15 for additional film. 

I am interested growing my bad-movie-sighting skills. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reasons Not to Bike in the Cold

I am an Ironman. That's right, I've done the 140.6 deed multiple times. Do it once and it's an accomplishment. Do it twice and it becomes an obsessive. I have decided (much to the wife's lament), that I will keep Ironmanning until I qualify. Qualifying requires training. Tough training. Mentally and physically. Which includes biking...

I live in a clime non-conducive to outdoor cycling. You can't really bike in the cold anyway. Repeated studies have shown that riding when the temperature is below does more harm than good from a fitness perspective. For one, ice biking is not good for the legs. My legs are the engine. They are the heart and soul of the race. Here's the risk and a brief review of physics. At increased speeds, moving air increases the number of collisions between you and the climate. This, in turn, causes evaporation and its cooling effect. If the temperatures weren't already cold, this would have a positive effect on training. However, at cold temperatures, muscles don't achieve the optimal workout temperatures. Enzymes in your muscles work slower. Internal muscle heat could drop to dangerously low levels. I wouldn't want to risk frostbite or amputation for some outdoor miles.

For two, low temperatures impair the ability for lungs to absorb oxygen. A brief review of anatomy. As humans, we have advanced gas exchange adaptations, possibly the best in the animal kingdom. Your lungs are moist organs that serve as a barrier between you and cellular respiration. The volume of liquid is spread out increasing the surface area. Increased surface area allows for higher levels of oxygen absorption with simultaneous excretion of carbon dioxide. In cold weather, the exchange system is compromised. Due to their diminutive size and large surface area, tiny icicles are prone to crystallize in your alveoli, perhaps endangering your VO2 max in later months. I wouldn't risk it.

To further complicate matters, cold weather biking is not good for the bike. Yes, I own 2 bikes (one aluminum road and one carbon tri). Neither bike is made of a material that is necessarily corrosive. It's not the bike itself, but the components. Cables, cogs, pedals, connectors, nuts, bolts, etc. are all  oxidation prone. Brief chemistry lesson...salt is a chemical catalyst for the reaction between metals (specifically iron) and oxygen. Iron, such as the kind found in the components of my precious multi-thousand dollar rides, reacts slowly with air to form a reddish-brown compound known as iron II oxide (commonly called rust). Add salt and the energy required for the reaction is greatly reduced, allowing the reaction to occur at insultingly low temperatures. Salt is good for roads and bad for ice. Worse for my bike. A bit of research will show that riding in poor-climate conditions negates the warranty on the bike. I value and cherish my ride. Risking that much money and integrity of my bike is not worth the challenge outdoor riding offers.

Understand, that these aren't scientific studies. They're more the kind that I invent to justify not riding outside. It eases the guilt. In all reality, I am a big pansy when it comes frigid pedaling. My feet can't seem to produce heat between November and March. I see many cyclists in their outdoor gear with snow on the ground and temperatures below the Mason-Dixon line. I am not sure how they do it, stealing my masculinity like that. Who do they think they are, all bundled up, spinning on their single-speeds, gloating on by not even nodding in my direction as I sit in Starbucks, sipping on my cafe mocha? I see them. I scowl. I swear. Jerks. I am going to change into my bike shorts, no shirt, no socks, and mount my ride on the roller trainer in front of the TV. I am going to do drills and monitor my HR while happily sweating in the relative comfort of my basement. I'll see you in March. Or April. Definitely May.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Beginning

Welcome to the inaugural blog featuring the Internet's premier site for bantering on topics that may or may not actually be triathlon related. That being said, for some reason, I feel the need to litter the already bloated Internet with yet another bit of biased gibberish based on relatively no facts and tons of opines. Being as that I am not an actively social individual, this is my outlet for triathlon and life ranting as I see fit. Gotta love the blogosphere.

Without further ado, here's my story about triathlon. Very few people actually start in the sport with a desire to be a triathlete. Many of us have a differing background or rationale for attempting the SBR. I was a swimmer and a runner throughout high school and swam in college. I was not particularly great at either of these, but I didn't know it at the time. Of course, all of us rode bikes as children because, well, that's what kids do. Bicycles were our escape from reality and our main form of transportation. I was no exception. Somewhere in my mid-20s, post-college and pre-marriage, I heard about a local YMCA that ran a non-USAT sanctioned triathlon as a fundraiser event. Of course, I knew nothing of USAT. I only knew that I could already swim and run. I remember biking as a kid. How hard could a triathlon be?

Naturally, I was not ready for such an event. For one, I did not own a bike. A co-worker of mine had a husband who had a bike. I am 5'10. He was 6'4. I bought the bike for $20. (Which I learned later was spent that very night on pizza. Not sure who got the better deal.) The bike was a steel Schwinn, complete with cage toe-clips and a hand-finished white paint job. If I lowered the seat to its lowest setting, I could pedal. I could even touch the ground if I leaned the bike a bit to the sides. I could also touch the ground if I was at the very end of my tippie toes, albeit with emasculating discomfort. I was ready.

The race itself was a sprint distance, not that I had any idea what that meant. All I knew was that I didn't need to swim much to complete a menial 400 yard swim. On a team, 400 yards is less than your average warm up. Simple. No walls, lines, or flip turns. They were even nice enough to put these great big balloons to swim around. Some of the races wore big, thick, black rubber suits. Must be non-swimmers.

The bike was a mere 13 miles. All I had to do was hang my gargantuan bike from a pole and put my shoes on the side.

With a run of only 3.4 miles... Ha, piece of cake. Of course, growing up in a competitive environment, I had to go hard. Right. No wetsuit. No bike shoes. No knowledge. No experience. No idea. No problem.

I had no clue about the challenge of coming out of the water and trying to run to my bike. Competitive swimming does not normally involve a run portion. The ache in my chest was not anticipated. The race flier was completely vague about how to find your bike coming from the water. I had no understanding of the draft rule or the blocking rule. Competitive running does not normally involve a swim/ bike warm-up. I didn't anticipate the rubbery, robot feel of coming off the bike and starting to run. The "I think I left my right lung at the 1 mile mark' feeling was completely foreign to me before that fateful morning.

However, I won my age group. That's right. I finished first in the male 20-24 age class. I was on top of the world. I got my medal. Picture taken. In a nutshell, I was awesome. Posting a time of 1 hour and 20 plus minutes was a podium finish. Looking back now, I get that most normal early 20-somethings are usually out drinking, partying, socializing on Saturday nights and not racing on Sunday mornings. In the po-dunk area of Indiana in which I was residing, the sport was not mainstreamed. Or recognized. Or even heard of by the masses. This was the late 90s and no one my age was triathloning (new word, we should use it). In the bliss of my award, I had just one thought... I won. You didn't. I am definitely doing this again next year.

Somewhere buried in a shed at my parents' house lies that same white bike with the toe clips. Rusted and seized by now. The large plastic box that I used in my second year of the race to wash my feet in transition can still be found. Those years I rode in a spandex. No tri suit. No padding. Full cotton socks. Such success. The beginning had started.