Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Think I'm a Viking

Hellish Perspectives
Does anyone else sit around and think deep thoughts about stuff? I do. It sure beats real work. My most recent deep thoughts revolved around hell. Granted I was guided towards these thoughts. They didn't just float in out of nowhere. I'm often fascinated by the progression of thought patterns. Here's how hell popped up into my head...

I was reading a Bernard Cornwell novel. I enjoy his writing. He's well researched and takes the time to develop mostly accurate historical fiction. In the series in which I was immersed, the main character was set around the time that Christianity was overtaking Norse theology in England. Our hero was basically raised a Viking despite the fact that his family and king were Christians.

The Vikings were warriors and loved the fight. Should you fight and die, you were guaranteed a place in Viking heaven, which was simply a banquet hall with all the booze, eats, and women you could handle. Should you die without a sword in your hand, you go to hell. Helheim. It's description, "...cold, dark and misty abode of the dead." Viking hell is cold. 

Christianity is distinctly different. Hell is hot. And sometimes, you get cast into the inferno for killing with a sword in your hand. Banished to the underworld, you are to suffer eternity in a constant blaze of third degree burns. As a guy who requires a constant slathering of spf 30 and above, I can relate. Sadly, The Book is mostly vague if they force you to bike and run while down there.

Now, here's where the deep thought comes in (and chances are that, with my menial levels of intellect, I've gotten it wrong), but it seems to me that each of those cultures had picked a hell based on their origin. The Vikings were Northlanders. Winters were harsh and cold. There was never enough food. Being frozen was an unfun fact of life. The Christians toiled in the desert, sometimes for years on end. It's no wonder that they wanted out and didn't want to go back. I can hear the threats from the elders to the youngsters, "You want me to ship you back to the desert. Huh? Now shut it and behave." (Sort of the old fashioned version of "Don't make me stop this car and come back there.")

The Vikings May Have Gotten It Right
Coming off an exceptionally long winter, one that started back in early November and has yet to let go its grip, I find myself relating to the Vikings. I'm pretty sure that, if you do your research correctly, in one old drawing of Helheim (in one the original texts of the Danes) they drew a picture of my house. How they knew I have no idea. As I get older, I find myself growing weary of the snow and cold much earlier in the season (read: November). I relate to the retirees who migrate from my neighborhood to the plush subtropic realms of the nation and stay there long enough for the snow to melt. They returned last week only to hear that the highs were in the 20s/30s and snow still covered their lawn. Based on the looks on their faces, they are Vikings too.

As a prediction, I am assuming that I'll come full circle in mid-July. Smacked dead in the middle of a temperate climate and quite proximal to a Great Lake, summers here can become very Christian hellish. The upper 90s with relative humidities in the 80th percentile range guarantee that your sweat glands will get the extra work they've been lacking around the turn of the calendar. My skin changes from a pasty white to a lobster-like hue even when I'm inside. No transition. No middle ground. Training gets pushed to the bookends of the day and can still be uncomfortable.

When that time comes, I may be a convert. Hell will have evolved from a cold wasteland of the dead to a hot wasteland of the dead. Until then, I'm a Viking. Now where's my sword, dinner, and wife? Time to pillage train.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

40 Days of Working Out- Update

The New Math
Having usurped some philosophies from contemporary lines of thought, I, a few weeks ago, decided to take on the notion of adopting a Lenten perspective towards working out. Having limited exposure to the concept and educated by the popular media, I decided that I would give up 'not working out'. Or, stated positively, I would workout daily during the 40 Days of Lent, which I have entitled "The 40 Days of Working Out" or 40 DOWO.

From the get go, the process was flawed. First, I fully believed that the Lenten season, start to finish, was 40 days long. That's what I've understood since the early days of observing the Lenters through my own personal looking glass. There have even been movies made about the concept of 40 days. Hollywood wouldn't steer me astray, right? Well, even a poorly trained monkey could go to a calendar,  start on Ash Wednesday, count until Easter, and get a number a full week longer than 40 days. According to my spiritual advisor, the BIL, apparently Sunday's don't count. This puts a kink into the system rendering the title 40 DOWO completely inaccurate. If only there was some sort of manual, a book that had these guidelines (amongst others), a word that explained how to live and behave, then I might have gotten this correct. Alas, I'm unaware of any such novel. I'm sure if it existed, it would be bought by millions and might even be a best-seller of all time. Hopefully, someone will pen a few chapters and make it available for the masses.

Second, I started the process with an understanding that the Winter Training Season might end soon. A short 10 days plus some hourly change after the Lenten Season began, winter was supposed to end with the solar rays finally crossing over into our hemisphere. This is usually met with the re-migration of several species of animal and the arrival of warmer temperatures. We had one day in which the mercury (for those of us who haven't traded the mercury for dyed-alcohol) stumbled over the 50º plateau, only to be met with a polar air chaser. The snow has reappeared and the bike has remained in the basement.

The Mark Against Me
Despite the challenge of increasing my workout total from 40 to 47, I have been faithful to the original rules. You can read them here. Thus, I've done some form of SBR for at least 30 minutes a day for the past 18 days (as of this writing). One day, a nasty form of belly rumbling turned a normally spry Banter into the fetal position for several hours. I cut it close, bravely climbing out of bed, and started a run at 9:40 pm (bed time in the Banter household is typically 9:30). The streak was still alive.

After 2 full weeks into the 40 DOWO, I entered a recovery week in my training schedule. Having planned this recovery week months before incepting the Lenten workout philosophy, I was conflicted. Fortunately, 30 minutes of cardio is not enough to ruin a good recovery day and my original schedule was not compromised. But, lurking in the shadows was a hidden force that might prove to end the streak.

See, smack dab in the middle of Lent this year lied a special day. Actually, it was a milestone of a special day. Here within happens to be my wedding anniversary. Not only was it my wedding anniversary, but my 10th wedding anniversary. And by 'my', I really mean ours. The Wife is nothing short of amazing and the most spectacular supporter of all things Banter. The fact that were still together is evidence of her superiority. Anyone who can tolerate me for even brief periods of time deserves an award. Ten years? The Noble Prize committee is currently reviewing the situation and we are expecting a call from the King of Sweden any time soon.

On the morning of the special day, I had the proverbial Angel/ Devil on the shoulder kind of inner chatter. The right brain was telling me to get up early and hit the pool before work. The left side was saying "don't you dare." Now, I don't normally listen to the left side of my head. But on this morning, the left side was closest to The Wife and it was making more sense. I'm sure I'd be lost without her and therefore the 40 DOWO was in jeopardy.

I didn't pay attention to the anniversary date when calculated the 40 DOWO. However, I was smart enough (for once in my life) to recognize that I'm not in this whole life thing alone. The Wife got her own rule, which I enacted on that day. She got the priority. We slept in. Went to work. Returned. Went to hibachi. Drank some wine. Ate some hibachi. Then we got home. And can you guess how we celebrated our 10th Anniversary? Correct! And it was awesome. We ate 1/2  a 9x11 cake. We drank some more wine. We were in bed by 9:30. Great night. Anything else that may have happened in the mean time is just hearsay and your imagination.

So, here we are, right in the middle of the Lenten season. I've exercised on all but one, in which I'm giving myself a free pass. My house and my rules. I'm comfortable in my commitment to both The Wife and the 40 DOWO. Only 22 more days (or 27, depending on which number you use) for the DOWO and going strong. Only a lifetime left for the Wife. Life is good.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Difference Between Coaching Adults and Students

America is a land full of conflicting information. For instance, popular media will claim that we are obsessed with thinness, but obesity is now considered an epidemic. Most people (obese or otherwise) will say that they want to lose weight. They also recognize that the single best way to burn calories is to run. Based on this information, you'd suspect that America would be a land of running and that we'd love it. Odd.

Wanting to lose weight doesn't seem to be enough. Many people need a more valid excuse for running, so they take up sports. Most athletes participating in sports are really closet Golden Retrievers- they chase balls for exercise. The ball provides the reason to run. Chase it or be chased. Some of those balls are hit with a stick (baseball),  tossed (basketball or baseball), or kicked (such as football (American and traditional) or the average dating scene). Regardless, launch a ball into a group and the hounds go wild. Granted, there are those who need no reason to run. In high school, we called those people 'unpopular.' And by 'we', I mean everyone else. And by 'those people', I mean me.

I started coaching track this week. Oddly, not much has changed since my high school days. Running is still just as thrilling as ever. I've come to learn that maintaining the motivation for a group of kids to run is just as arduous as getting a group of adults to be excited about running, especially since we remove the ball. That's where this coaching thing becomes lucrative (in the mental well-being sense, not the monetary sense). I enjoy watching athletes grow and improve throughout our time together. Yet, coaching adults is vastly different than coaching students (in the high school sense). Allow me to expand...

-Both adults and students know that running is good for you, yet still aren't that thrilled about it.
-Both have better workouts when you (and by you, I mean me) get out there and run with them.
-Both hate stairs and hill work.
-Both would rather subscribe to the Saturday morning infomercial form of training (you know, 6 minutes a day for only 4 days a week will give you long, lean muscle mass).
-Both don't take constructive criticism very well. You must provide the negative gift wrapped in opportunity or else risk a system failure.

-Adults base all possible coaches on the reality show, the Biggest Loser. They either want a Jillian or a Bob. (I'd want a Jillian, too)
-Students don't put a lot of deep thought into their coach. The coach is the coach. You want on the team, suck it up and live with it. (Thank goodness for that.)

-Adults are interested in the theory. They turn into large 4-year-olds once practice starts. Why do we do this? How do we do that? Do I really have to run hills? I have to get up how many hours before a race?
-Students want to put in exactly zero thought into their routine. Just tell me what to do so I can do it and get on with my life. I'll come back tomorrow and you can tell me again.

-Adults want to set their own goals. Some are lofty. Some are ambitious. It is the coach's job to help with reality and to see them through the endgame. (P.S. Pondering finished her NYC Half Marathon in PR fashion and blogged about it. You can read it here. I got a shout out. She rocks!)
-Students basically have one goal- win. All other goals are set for them.

-Adults appreciate data. Give them heart rates, paces, cadences, miles, time, calories burned, number of total steps taken, and how many minutes they just added to their life. They want it all.
-Students want to know if they won. If not, what place did they come in? All other information is completely useless.

-Students have practice for 2 hours daily and want each and every minute completely filled with something.
-Adults expect to get in shape in as little time as possible. Two hours in any day will not likely happen (including travel).

Both groups, adults and students, are uniquely rewarding. I cherish the opportunity to learn and grow with them. This post is a work in progress which I'm sure will yield the opportunity to expand and grow as time passes. (OK, the real reason I'm stopping the creative flow is that I'd like to research some fun track-related drills and games for the kids who need guidance for the next 10 weeks or so. I'm hoping I can find a running practice with a ball.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Eating Problem

Stealing Glances
Boys have been taught not to stare at magnificent specimens of beauty, even if they are on display. It's impolite. Imagine the stress created for guys in everyday situations. A colleague and myself were proctoring a group of students on a state assessment. Our proctor chairs were very close to each other and I got views to which no one else in the room was privy. I'm a bit taller than her and therefore in conversation I had to look down over her shoulder so I could look into her, umm, eyes. She brought some crackers and placed them on the table in front of some books, hidden to all but us. She ate maybe 4 and recognized that I was stealing glances at the nice little saltines, like white flour flavored cleavage wrapped in a sleeve-like bikini sprinkled with salt. Look ahead, look at the food. Look left, back to the food. Don't linger. Girls know what's happening and so did the saltines. She noticed my gaze and made the mistake of offering to share with me. Shortly thereafter, she got up and went to use the facilities. Don't leave me alone with the food! The sleeve was gone before I realized I had eaten. I was embarrassed when I noticed the empty, decrepit piece of plastic. She laughed. The incident made for good hazing from her to me for the next couple of years, until her retirement.

Eating can become as subconscious as breathing, happening without me even knowing it. Chocolate in our house has a half-life rivaling that of lithium-8 (under 10 seconds if you didn't want to look it up). The Wife hides bags of chips in the house to ensure that she can have a few. Seriously. She only wants a few and has to behave like a pirate burying her treasure. When they are getting close to the expiration date, the bag wondrously is unearthed, appears on top of our refrigerator and magically disappears by the end of the day. She's got that kind of forward thinking. I'm still looking for the treasure map. 

As evidenced by my training log, I like to eat. Wait. I mean that the bathroom scale is providing evidence of my love for training. See, here's where I get lucky. Even though numerous of friends and family have blamed me for their weight gain, preferring to compete in the Calorie Olympics I often call dinner, I have remained relatively stable. I graduated high school at a plush 155. I graduated college at a whopping 157. I am currently sitting at a boisterous 161, with the barometer falling. That's roughly 18 years of steady state gravitational force with only marginal fluxes in downward acceleration. I have, at a low point, made it up to my fattest level of 175, been ashamed, and come back down. Here's where my lifestyle benefits me.

Achieving Balance
I can't remember a time in my life where I went a full 2-weeks without working out. Maybe if I search the database back to junior high school a patch of gray area might appear. Starting in 8th grade, I ran track. High school featured cross country running, swimming, baseball, and track (in my senior year). College featured swimming. NCAA swimming starts in September and endures through March. I cross trained in the off-season with running. I had the fortune of rooming with a guy who was just as active as me post-graduation. We did 2 marathons together. Then I married a hot chick who was a soccer player. Soccer players are really runners in disguise, as they chase balls as motivation for their running. Shortly before marriage, I heard about this triathlon fad and got hooked. Three and two-thirds Ironman races later (not counting all the sprints, intermediates, and other stuff in between) and we arrive at present day. All of this activity has allowed me to fit into the same clothes I had in the 90's,much to The Wife's dismay (my clothes weren't cool then either).

Mixing Pleasures
I have heard this line from various people throughout the years, "You can eat whatever you want." They're referring to my exercise habits and concluding based on my waist line. Whereas this is true for me, it's equally true for everyone. You too can eat whatever you want. If food is that important to you, then eat it. Go right ahead. I'm not gonna stop you or look down on you. Heck, I might even join you. If eating is your pleasure, then go pleasure yourself.

Eating is the aspect of my life probably holding me back from truly achieving my fitness goals, I.E. qualifying for the big stuff like Kona. Food can be more than pleasure. In reality, it's fuel. NASA spends millions, maybe billions, for engineers to develop better fuels for its machines. Some governments fight wars over fuel for our vehicles (but not the American government, we'd never sink that low). I've been involved in conversations where men, real hard-working blokes, argue over the pros and cons of using Exxon brand 87-octane versus Mobile brand 87-octane (hint: they are exactly the same as they come from the same company). They have this parley over pizza and beer. They spend more time considering which refined fossil fuel is best for their beat-up pickup than considering what is actually providing them with the energy to have the conversation. I'm exactly like them, minus the deep thoughts over oil companies. I choose fuel for both my body and car with roughly the same criteria, frugality.

If I use the fuel-before-pleasure technique, I'd have a much better engine coupled with a larger grocery bill. In order to do that, I have to hinder some of my negatives and replace them with positives. Mostly this means eating better. Unprocessed foods beat processed foods. Chicken beats beef. Wild rice beats white. Vegetables beat fruit which beat cheese. Pizza should be monthly, at best. Hot wings get reserved for the Superbowl (which I don't watch anyway, so that bullet is dodged).

I'm definitely not there yet, but I am dreaming. This dream is slowly making it's way into my reality. Breakfast of oatmeal with almonds and flax seed. Lunch with romaine, mixed vegs, and blueberries. Snacks of apples and trail mix (spliced with M&M's, serving as evidence of my humanity). I haven't given up my mocha latte, granola bars, or adding brown sugar to my oatmeal mix. I continue to snack on pretzels and crave pretty much any dessert. The answer to, "You want a cookie?" is, and will continue to be, "YES." Same for cupcakes or any other item in the 'frosted' food group. At least I'm not actively making these foods or searching them out. The food finds me. Still, pizza only once a month? That may not be doable on any plane of existence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Workout of the Week (WOW): Running Tempo Intervals

Molasses Legs
Lately, I've been feeling slow. Especially when I compare my running pace with my Oklahoma running pace. When I went to visit the BIL, I was on top of the Banter Pace World. In the several times I ran, I hit an average of 7:26 while keeping my HR in Z2. Ahh, the sweet Oklahoma air. Ahh, the sweet Oklahoma food. Oh and Ahh, the sweet late-February Oklahoma temps.

Return to Western NY... not so much. It's as if crossing the border sucks stuff right out of you. Sure, we have the 2nd highest taxes in nation, depending on who you believe. One resource listed NY as first, but I'm an optimist, so I went with the lower, more crowd pleasing number. (Aside: I did a little research on this with the intention of making light of the tax situation here. Income, housing, fuel, etc. The news is so depressing that I couldn't find a way to spin it funny, even by my low funny standards. It's like trying to make a joke about the ending of Old Yeller, except that the dog in this case is my bank account. End Aside.) Unlike most people, I'm not gonna blame the politicians for my running woes as I'm pretty sure that most runners blame politicians when they are slow. I will hypothesize that the added weight from eating the Oklahoma food (see above, 2nd Ahh) in excess (repeatedly) coupled with the added pounds of layered clothing may contribute to decreased mph. I might just be a pansy but I'd prefer to blame the weight. It's never really my fault.

Looming Slowness
I've been doing some heavy thinking about my race schedule and my first race of the season. In a mere 3 weeks, I kick off with a 15 K on a hilly course. For some reason, I've got this frightening number stuck in my brain. It's 7:30. The first reason I'm frightened is that I'm really a little girl this is the race start time. I am not a morning person and definitely not a morning runner. Even with Daylight Savings Time in full effect, this is early to me. Plus, in order to make it to the starting line on time, <shivering> I don't even want to think about what time I have to wake up. I'm guessing by 7:00 as it's a 20 minute drive from my house to the race. There's also the pre-race stuff that needs to be taken care of. This includes fueling, hydrating, urinating, finding my clothes, changing, finding my shoes, shoeing, finding my toothbrush, brushing, and Tweeting about the experience of getting ready. I'm guessing that I can fit all of that in to 10 minutes. Optimal sleep while meeting the rest of the body's needs.

Second, 7:30 is also my goal pace for the season in non-triathlon related events. I'm not sure where it came from. I have no real data or support for this number. I just made it up. For some reason, though, it's sticking. This means finishing a 15k in under 1:10. Last year I was 1:16 and distinctly remember bonking around the 6.5 mile mark. It was not good. There may have been some walking involved. Tears may have flowed (but not mine of course, I've got an ego to maintain). At the end of April, I've got a double race weekend planned with a duathlon on Saturday followed by a half marathon on Sunday. The Du features a broken 10k, meaning that I want my total run time to be under :46.30. The HM should be a bit trickier demanding a 1:38 for the achievement. Last year, I went 1:42 in the HM without the duathlon precursor. I'd better get a move on (literally and figuratively). Therefore, pace work.

Data Comparison
Check out these 2 workouts (click to enlarge). They were run on consecutive days on the exact same course. The run on the right was first while the run on the left was second (not sure why the Garmin comparison software did that). Both were bricks.
Brick [noun]- 1. the rubbery, robotic feeling in your legs during running characterized by a slow cadence, underwhelming pace, elevated heart rate, and overall feelings of anguish.  2. any run immediately following a bike session, which subsequently produces meaning 1 (in case any non-triathletes happen to stumble upon this post. BTW, welcome!).

There were 2 main differences between these runs.
  • The Wednesday bike session was a trainer hill session (description can be found here). The Thursday bike session was also on the trainer (duh), but less strength intense.
  • The Wednesday run session was a steady state run. The Thursday run was tempo intervals.
The protocol for this run was as follows: Warm up 1 mile, slowly bringing HR into Z2. Then do 0.5 miles in Z3 followed by 0.5 miles in Z2. Repeat until you fall over dead or until you arrive home, which ever comes first.

Look at the HR data at the right. My running zones are higher than my cycling zones. Z2 ends at 173 (compared with 154 on the bike). Z3 ends at 183 (161 bike). There is a gradual rise in HR during the WU. Around the 8 minute mark, HR breaks the 170 line AKA, the Tempo line for me. Roughly 3:30 later, it drops below. The middle set was the toughest to recover as I was traveling uphill on the easy. After that, there is a sustained over 170, under 170 pattern. I did make the mistake of jumping into Z4 for a short period, this time on a tempo interval going uphill.

When you compare the data from Wednesday and Thursday, the total time is not much different (40 seconds) nor is the pace much different (8 seconds). Yet, the Thursday run got my legs moving at an average pace of 7:20 during the tempo with a Z2 recovery of around 8:00. This should speeden me up. Now, if there was only a tempo workout that could lessen my taxes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Random Happenings of the Week

Today, I feel like one of those throwback episodes on TV. You know where the writers can't really think of anything original, so they decide just to show you snippets of stuff that had happened in prior episodes. Except in this case, you haven't had a chance to watch this episode of Banter. You may have to go back and read some of my old posts to fully understand. In this episode, there's broken things, nudity, Lent, and contest entry. Here's the highlights of my week...

The YMCA Revisited
  • I'm pretty sure that the seal on the 2011 swim season has indeed been broken. I swam a couple of times this week. My stroke has gone from 1-winged Canadian goose trying to go aflight to 2-winged Canadian goose actually taking aflight. Not pretty, but getting better.
  • The Blind Role Model was not in the pool, much to my chagrin. I was hoping to impress her with my improved technique.
  • The deck clock is broken. I have taken very few of my former swimmer habits with me to the swimming grave known as triathlon, but my uber-dependence on the deck clock has not faded. I will never start any set until the hand is on the top (that's when the little hand touches the 60 in swimmer speak). The deck clock is stuck on the 27. I waited for 2 minutes before realizing it wasn't moving. I must know how fast that 100 yards went, even if it was horrible. I was absolutely lost in the water without it. I may have to buy the Y a new one if I plan on returning to the pool.
  • While drying off post-shower, a woman on her cell phone walked into the men's locker room and saw me. I was, um, well you know, err, not wearing much. And by not much, I mean nothing. The audacity of that woman. Doesn't she know that cell phones are not legal in locker rooms in the state of NY.
40 Days of Working Out
  • I have more than achieved my daily workout quota as a Lenter. My lightest day was been 60 minutes of the required 30. Not bad.
  • Recovery day tomorrow is gonna be tough. I would normally take a full day off after a long weekend (over 6 hours of training in the past 2 days). No plan as how to handle the big desire to do nothing and not disappoint myself in the 40 DOWO.
  • I started a 40 DOWO challenge on As it turns out,  I'm not the only nutbag out there. There's at least 9 others (all guys). At first glance, I might actually be the weakest nutbag in the group. The male-ego gene does not like that.
  • I believe that the 40 DOWO has helped me lose some of the Oklahoma weight (finally).
  • I biked 6 days this week, more than normal. But, since triathlon favors the bike, I can't complain.
  • Given this heavy bike week, I'm not looking forward to next week's heavy run week.
  • I entered a writing contest on another guy's blog. I hope I win. Even if I don't, I probably post my entry anyway. There's more than one way to beat the competition.
  • I've Tweeted more than 20 times.
  • Now that I'm a Twit, there's so many things on Twitter I don't understand. How can people sift through the thousands of chatter by the people that there are following? (If this applies to you, who are also a Twit: 1. please start following me at @TriBanter (one more can't hurt, right?), 2. maybe you can give me a tutorial). What are 'lists'? What's a 'retweet'? How can an 8-year old get this while I can't?
  • Since I live in a split level house, I have 5 stairs leading from my bedroom to my kitchen. This is unacceptable. I decide when I do strength work, not my house. Therefore, I want a new house. Single floor living. If you know of any decent ones in my area, please let me know.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Enter the Twit

Misconceptions as a Kid
Kids are awesome. They make assumptions based on the natural world that can border on the line of bizarre. Here are some gems I had as a child:

Remember the old TV show Wonder Woman?  It featured Lynda Carter as a tight-suited, secretarial type. When trouble arose, she changed into the most magnificent superhero. Superman kept his superoutfit buried underneath his business suit. Batman went down the BatPole and changed on the way down. Not Wonder Woman. She spun in circles in any public arena, and in a flash of light, magically her clothes fell off and were replaced with the scantily clad outfit of a villain fighter. I thought, as a pre-pubescent, that if I focused hard enough, I can actually see the change. I mean, Lynda Carter had it all. All over tan. Great hair. Golden Lasso. Bullet repelling bracelets. And, from a young boy's point of view, the best pair of boo__s. (Insert a 't', please). No amount of focus proved successful, regardless of the number of attempts at seeing through the flash.

Also, as a kid, I was afraid of growing up in my own Peter Pan sort of way. I noticed that there were no adults that liked cartoons. How was that possible? Was there something in their food or a law against adults watching cartoons? Did I have to replace Tom and Jerry with golf? Or Nascar? Or worse, football? That sucked. I wanted no part of that. Fortunately it was a total misconception. Now that I'm some sort of adult, I don't have to watch golf, Nascar, nor football. I still get to watch cartoons. Crisis averted.

Fact checking
Sadly, Tom and Jerry is not often played on any of the super-cheap cable stations I'm willing to pipe into my house. If it were, I'd watch. How else could you get me to listen to classical music? I do get Fox. Which means the Simpsons. Daily. The half hour between 6:30-7:00 is my TV time. If you are not a fan, you should try it again. The writing and content is far more intelligent than anything that I could spew. On an old episode, I heard the following "They have the internet on computers now," -Homer Simpson.

I'm not stupid enough to accept everything I hear, especially on the Simpsons. I did some research. Sure enough, I Googled 'internet' and low and behold, Homer was right. The internet has migrated to computers. It must have happened overnight.

After playing around, I noticed that the Internet has everything. Dietary advice. Money solutions. Teaching materials. Something called a blog (not sure if there's more than one at this time). Wow! Why hadn't someone told me this before? A word of caution, tread warily (OK, technically 2 words). Do a search for just about any woman's name and all kinds of freaky stuff shows up. I was a little embarrassed when I searched for Lynda Carter for the picture above (in case anyone didn't have a clue as to who she was). Sure, some of my 11 year old dreams may have been answered but at the expense of my innocence, which I will never get back.

I am a Twit
After learning about this Internet thing, I called a meeting of all vested interests in TriBanter Enterprises, Inc (copyright pending). The main objective of the meeting was to identify how better to take advantage of the Internet. The meeting was grueling and if anyone has any suggestions on how to make a brainstorming meeting less arduous, please let me know. Here were some of the thoughts tossed out:
  • Take over the internet and require TriBanter be read before accessing any other website
  • Replace 'http://' with 'TriBanter://'
  • Develop a new web browser, call it TriBanter, with the goal of ousting Google. Users will now Banter something instead of Google it.
  • Re-program the internet so that all websites will automatically re-route to TriBanter after 35 seconds
  • Rename the internet the Banternet
These were the only ideas that were plausible. As you could guess, most of these options would require a lot more capital than is currently generated. Alternate solutions were needed. One of the attendees, maybe Pondering, suggested that I join something called Twitter. I asked how much? She said, "Nothing." Since that number matched my sponsor revenue and was easier than any one the other offers on the table, I signed up. Therefore, I have joined the other Twits out there (Is that the proper term for someone on Twitter? I couldn't find that information anywhere on their website.) Anyone with a Twitter account can now follow me. Can you guess my profile name? Hint: Ah, never mind. If you couldn't figure out the TriBanter's twitter name, I probably don't deserve you as a follower.

My biggest goal in Twitter is to keep myself motivated in my 40 Days of Working Out campaign. I started on Wednesday like a thoroughbred in Louisville with 2.5 hours of training out of the required 30 minutes. On Thursday, I only accomplished a 60 minute bike followed by a 5 mile run (:38 minutes). I'm currently on day 3 and going strong. Thirty-eight more days should be a piece of cake. We'll see where the Twit goes from there.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Doin' It- Banter Style

One could say that I was not brought up in a religious household. My dad was baptized Catholic and his baptism was the last confirmed time he was spotted in a church, except for the occasional wedding or funeral. Oh, there was that one time the church held a garage sale but I don't think that counts. My mom was something called a Congregationalist, or Congressionalist, or Congresswoman. I'm still uncertain as to what this means. I think its Christian. It might be a Lutheran sect. It's possible they vote on stuff. We stopped going when I was about 7 because we moved and now church was about 45 miles from the house. Way too far for salvation. That may be the reason I am lazy. I inherited it.

Despite my lack of childhood brainwashing exposure to religion, I am absolutely fascinated by it and have taking it upon myself to learn as much as possible. Despite my best efforts, there are so many practices and procedures that are confusing. Lent is not one of them. Having had no formal training in the concept, I'm pretty sure I've got it figured out. My best guess is that there are those who are still vexed by Lent. I shall now share with you the results of what I have learned about Lent, based solely on loose observations over several years.

The Facts of Lent
Lent lasts for a little more than a month, about 10% of the calendar year. Exactly when it starts is a complete mystery, it changes every year. To the best of my knowledge, there is an anomaly in the atmosphere that kicks off the season, of which I haven't felt. I view this as akin to how birds know when it's time to fly south for the winter. They just know. Same with the Lenters. They just know. And, for some reason, Lent seems to start on a Tuesday evening or Wednesday early morning. This has made no sense to me in the past and makes no sense to me now. Why not start on a Monday? Or Saturday? Why Tuesday? No one knows. If the Lenters get it, they ain't sharing.

On that Tuesday, especially in places like New Orleans, some Lenters will party like its 1999 (including when it was 1999). Magically, the party ends and definitely by Wednesday's breakfast, Lent is in full swing. In several interviews with Lenters, I have posed a simple question, "What are you doing for Lent?" (This was an interactive investigation.) I like open-ended questions as they give an opportunity for the subject to express him/herself. The responses vary but can be lumped into one of 2 categories. The first, widely more popular category, is the "I'm giving up _______" category. The second, smaller category is the "I've started _______" category.

Here's where I like Lent. It doesn't matter which category the subject had chosen. At the end of the story, they were a better person. I'm giving up smoking, alcohol, reading bad online blogs, etc. I've started working out, spending time with the children, reading bad online blogs, etc. I've also learned that, whatever they've decided, they must to do it, or not do it, DAILY. Not once in a while. Not weekly. Daily. Further, they must continue to do it until someone says stop. I don't know who. Maybe they all are on a secret email list. Remind me to check my spam filter later this week. If there is no form letter, again, the Lenters just know.

I've always liked the concept of Lent. This seems like a worth while venture. I want in. I may have to pledge. Regardless, I'm gonna do it.

40 Days of Gettin' It On Working Out
Unsure if I have to pay a charter fee, I have decided to drop myself into the latter Lenten category. I will become a Lenter and train for the entire Lenten season.  To be clear to myself, here's the rules I have drafted:
  1. I must swim, bike, and/ or run daily. Other forms of exercise do not count.
  2. For it to count, the total duration must be more than 30 minutes.
  3. Intensity is not important.
  4. I may not work out extra in one day to make up for another day.
  5. I may excuse myself from exercise if there is a legitimate risk to my health, including injury.
  6. I may excuse myself from exercise if there is a legitimate obligation to the Wife.
In years past, I have experienced a lull in my training in early April. It's raining. It's windy. It's cold. I'm a pansy. I'm busy working. I'm coaching. My teeth hurt. Now that I'm a Lenter, I will work through the April doldrums. Let the Lenting begin.

P.S. If you are a Lenter and on the inside, I'd appreciate a note letting me know when I can stop.

Monday, March 7, 2011

W.O.W.- Long run in the snow

The Plan
Today's Workout of the Week is the Long Run. The long run is actually the least complicated of all the workouts. Go. Run. Stop much, much later. In endurance sports, it may actually be the most intimidating. It's probably also the least interesting to write about, until you consider that there are stories to go along.

Pondering (formerly the Banter-Girl, though her profile is 'Pondering Blah Blah Blah', too long for me to actually remember) and I set out for what was to be as much as we can smush into 90 minutes on Sunday morning. She's training for the NYC Half-Marathon and needed some motivation. Why she picked me is anyone's guess. I brought the Perfect Running Partner.

Here's a shot of Pondering and the PRP pre-run. You can tell it's pre-run because she's smiling and has the energy to wave. Pondering has been taught well. Dresses in layers. Running gloves on. Shiny 'look-at-me' vest.

The PRP is unhappy. He hates getting his picture taken. He's sick of standing around. Enough of the talking and posing. Let's run.

Mother Nature Does Not Like Us
Yesterday, the temperatures in Western NY were riding 50. Yeah, it rained, but woohoo 50º! Overnight, the rain magically transformed itself to snow. Look carefully at the pic again. When you finish staring at Pondering, you might notice the snow in the background. Now I'm no weatherman or meteorologist (I understand that these two titles are actually quite different), but I believe that one condition required for snow is cold. Clearly no longer 50º. Too bad, the run must go on.

Our goal for the run was to make it 9 miles in 90 minutes (I'll wait while you get out the pace calculator and do the math for minutes per mile). Alas, since snow was not plowed on any side street or side walk, pacing was slow going. Further, both Pondering and I run in Mizunos, which are nice enough to have a weight reduction void in the mid-heel. Snow packed itself in there like a barnacle hitching a ride on my whale of a foot, then extended itself past the boundary of the shoe. All that snow-cake made certain that heel striking was impossible. Now we added midsole striking to our workout goals.

The Male Ego Explained
At the turn of the century, scientists finished the multi-billion dollar Human Genome Project. HGP is a map pinpointing the locations of every gene in the species. During the project, they discovered some new sequences previously unknown. Midway down the Y-chromosome, they discovered the male-ego gene.  Later studies indicate how the gene works. The gene is automatically turned on in the presence of women. The hotter the female, or the larger number of females, the harder the gene works. The ego gene is also activated in the presence of children and other men whose gene has also been activated. The gene is inactive when you are alone or in the presence of your Mommy. Don't ask. I don't fully understand it either. But, I do know that since I live with a hot chick (AKA the Wife), am a teacher, and my Mommy lives 550 miles away, my ego-gene is running the equivalent of 20 hours per day, 7 days a week.

Unless your name is Lee Majors, you do not look good falling down. How do I look mid-fall? Kinda like a clod. The fall happened was while Pondering was watching. I slipped. Fell. Caught myself. Bounced back up like nothing had happened. Even if I had a bone piercing through the skin, since I was running with a girl, the ego-gene dictates that I shake it off as only a scratch. Only, it was a scratch without any long-term damage. Pondering was giving me an opportunity to slow/ stop. I felt fine. The worse part about the fall was my wrist. It hurt from catching my upper body. I was worried about my wrist. It was my right wrist too. That's the wrist I use for, umm, writing. We kept jogging.

The Dilemma
There are 2 main lines of thinking when scheduling your weekly workouts. The first is to focus on time. How many minutes of swimming/ biking/ running, etc. Next week, maintain or increase by no more than 10%. The second is to focus on distance. How many yards for swimming and miles for biking/ running. Next week, maintain or increase by no more than 10%. I'm not so normal. I do distance in the pool and for running. I do time for biking. I would do distance for biking, but since I'm stuck in the basement, distance makes no sense.

Last week, my long run was 13.5 miles in 1:48 (that's hours and minutes, not minutes and seconds). The weather and Pondering both slowed me down. I am grumpy with the weather. With Pondering, not so much. At the 1:34 mark, we hit 8 miles. Pondering was done. I still had more work to do.
Here's Pondering and the PRP post-run. She's still smiling albeit forced. No more waving. Energy is gone. He's much more calm.

Do I still focus on distance, meaning at least 5.5 miles more? But, that would take me around :45, which is a significant increase in total time. To further complicate matters, it's morning, I'm grumpy,  I haven't eaten much yet and was already out of calories. I planned on playing it by ear and seeing how things go.

Fall Number 2
With Pondering out of the picture, I was able to run at my own pace. The PRP couldn't have cared less. He's was just happy to run. Two miles into part 2, I hit a patch of ice large enough to make Greenland jealous. My snow covered Wave Riders were no match for this hidden, slick patch of death. Down I go. Since it was just the PRP and me, the ego gene was turned off. This time, I was injured. The right ankle took the brunt of the blow. Fortunately for the long run, it happened about the apex of loop. I had 2 more miles to go and it was cold out. Bum ankle or not, I was running. I finished off the run and ended at 12 miles. The dilemma became moot. The ankle decided the distance.

Gargolye with Ice Helmet
Puppy Ice Helmet
Apparently, neither one of us can keep our eyes open during a photo shoot. I think that, if I added a chin strap, the ice helmet may be race legal.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Reading Between the Lines

As a semi-elitist in the sport of triathlon guy who has been exercising for a long time, I have some friends and family that milk me for free advice depend on me to keep them motivated and on the right path towards their goals. They are all quite inspriring and I look forward to coaching/ talking with them. One of my athletes is planning on doing the NYC Half Marathon in a couple of weeks.

As we grow nearer the starting gun, she seems to be getting nervous about the race. Yet, she's not the type to express her nervousness in the usual ways. Here's an email expressing how she might lose control of her bodily functions sometime in the near future. It is reprinted with permission and name was changed to protect the innocent. See if you can figure out which one is she.
So what do all of these people have in common:
Meb Keflezighi
Ryan Hall
Abdi Abdirahman
Kara Goucher

THAT'S RIGHT BABY, WE'RE ALL RUNNING NYC!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Is it wrong to poop my pants when I see them fly by me??
Blatant fear in this message. I sometimes wish that athletes would be less cryptic. Still, half of the fun of coaching is to solve the puzzle called 'athlete'. And, as a coach, it's my responsibility to not only guide my athletes towards their goals and encourage them, but also to read between the lines and quell their fears.

Since there's a good chance that you do not yet possess the skill and knowledge to fully understand the hidden woes of an athlete, I'll help you out. By dissecting this message, we can ascertain the following:
  1. She does her research and knows her competition.
  2. She has a secret crush on Ryan Hall. She didn't list him first because she didn't want to be too obvious.
  3. She knows I have a secret crush on Kara Goucher. How she figured it out is anyone's guess. Still, correct assumption on her part.
  4. She wants to move to Africa. Not now, but soon.
  5. She knows that she's an awesome athlete, but is afraid her endurance will run out, thus allowing some inferior athletes to catch her.
  6. She thinks that, by unloading during the second half of the race, she can shed some weight thus increasing her leg:weight power ratio and improving her speed/ endurance.
I try to be a good, supportive coach. Despite her nervousness, she's going to do well in this race. Here's why. Each number below corresponds to the number above.
  1. This is the main reason she'll succeed. Always know your competition. In her office, she has each one of these athlete's pictures posted and spends 5 minutes per day staring at them while growling. (All except for bachelorette number 4. That picture has, err, mysteriously, umm, disappeared.)
  2. Ryan Hall is nothing to be ashamed about. If it wasn't for the fact that he's a dude... (I'll stop there)
  3. She has been ordered to take several pictures from various angles of Kara.
  4. Humans evolved in Africa. Plus, their winters are significantly shorter than here. Not a bad idea.
  5. None of the names on her list are in her age group. Even if they do happen to pass her (possible, but unlikely), she'll still be in line to get a token finisher's medal and a potential plastic trophy. That should ease her mind.
  6. Since she has not trained in poopy pants, I do not recommend that she try in out during the race. If she wants to poop and run, she has to do it at least 3 times and log her experience before it can be race ready. Until then, all unloading should be placed in the proper receptacle. Also, there's dehydration problems to consider.
Coaching is not always easy but always rewarding. Athletes are human and thus prone to various sways in moods, emotions, and performances. But, after you get to know your athlete, you can guide them through the various ups and downs of a season. The Banter-Girl (I haven't cleared this name with her yet but I am guessing she'll be honored with the label) and I will be going on a long run tomorrow to gauge her fitness and keep her motivated. Plus, I want to ensure item number 6 does not happen. We're too close to race day to start working on that now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Swimming with a Stiffy

Breaking the Seal
I remember back in the old days when drinking beer was a sport. Beer was invented by the Fraternity Gods, who were Greek if I remember my history correctly (which I don't). It makes sense why most fraternities are named with Greek letters. Honor your beer drinking roots and provide us with hours of unbridled entertainment. Imbibing was comfortable in the beginning of the night. But, lurking in the shadow was evidence that your kidney and liver were conspiring against you. Although mine holds just under 9 (based on rough estimates), the average bladder holds about 12-16 ounces of fluid. This is roughly the same as the average beer. Coincidence? I think not. According to the Law of Conservation of Beer Mass, what goes in must come out. Drink 4 brews (more than enough for a light weight goon like me to become absolutely hysterical) and you have about a half-gallon of liquid that must be removed. The science behind this is a little more complicated as ethanol is a diuretic. The booze will tap your fluid reserves causing more liquid will come out than actually went in. This is a clear violation of the law and completely unfair. There is a delay because the liver is slow and the kidney is reluctant to give up its goods. However, once they get the system on line, the flood gates open and its off to the potty every 10 minutes or so. The seal has been broken and I'd like to offer a long overdue apology to the sorority house who had the unfortunate placement next door to our party room.

What's this have to do with triathlon (or anything else)? Okay, not much, except for a trip down memory lane. Because the last time I was a lush was also the last time I was a truly competitive athlete. When one faded it seemed that the other one did too. Last week, while visiting the BIL, I got in the water twice. I didn't know it at the time, but I may have broken the swimming seal on the 2011 triathlon season. I actually got up this morning and made it to the pool with plans to go back in the near future. We'll try to ignore that other seal thing that accompanies submerging your hands into warm water.

The Y is Full of Role Models
I like the YMCA. Just like most once-competitive swimmers, I find the pool temperatures insultingly high but I am not so much bothered by the temperature as I once was. Honestly, how can I complain about the winter training conditions and still gripe about warm water? I want warm (hear that jet stream!). Further, the Y attracts the most interesting people who are quite active. Oddly, none of these people are in my age group. The Y stands for 'young' and this may just be a matter of perspective. Despite their appearance or acquired life experience, they certainly act young. I like to think of most of the swimmers in the pool as 'role models'. When I grow up, I want to be an active older adult. I'd like to think that when I'm 84 (not 64 like McCartney suggested) that I am still hitting the laps and keeping in good shape, even if my form is in the dumps. I doubt that I will be getting in the pool at 6:30 am post-retirement. I only get there now because I have that job thingy. They want to get there early, that's their preference and who am I to judge? I'd sleep in. Still, I look upon the 'older' people with respect and awe. They are completely motivating.

After changing, I stepped out onto the deck, picked the open lane, and subsequently got kicked out. "But the lane is empty," I thought and was readying myself for the fight. As I scanned the water, there was the role model on her way to my lane, just not as speedy as me. The protest ended before I started, especially when I noticed that said role model was also blind. If I ever find a reason not to swim later in life, I hope that woman (or her ghost) hunts me down and smacks me silly. I had absolutely no problem yielding the free lane to her awesomeness. Smiling, I moved over 2 lanes to the next zone featuring just one swimmer.

Enter the Stiffy
There are certain rules in non-competitive swimming that must be adhered to. If you are joining a lane, you must announce your presence to the keeper of the lane. Fail to do so and you might actually get lynched. I prefer the 'sit on the edge with one foot in the water waving in front of the swimmer' approach. There I was waiting patiently for my new lapmate to spot my decrepit feet while stealing glances at the lane I recently vacated. Success, she stopped. Not the blind lady, but the woman in my lane. She was no role model per se, but closer to a traditional model. She was... Let's just say that she had good form. I am not lying when I tell you that I did not check her out before picking the lane. Seriously. Had I checked her out, I probably would have picked a different lane. Hot chicks intimidate me and I prefer to admire from afar. Too late, I'm stuck. After a short, awkward chat in which we decided that we would swim side-by-side and not circle swim, I stopped gawking and started my workout. It took me only a few strokes to notice my stiffy. Not good. Embarrassing. Swimming with a stiffy is very uncomfortable. Yes, my neck was still stiff from this past weekend.

Swimming with a stiff neck can actually be advantageous. First, it can, umm, keep you from getting distracted by anything else that may or may not be in your lane. Second, it can help maintain proper head position. Proper head position in the water is exactly the same as the most comfortable head position while walking. Try walking across the room with your head craned up at a 45º angle. Won't keep that going too long will you? Your head and eyes will drop to the neutral position, which is straight ahead. Pay attention as this is the ideal head position in swimming. Your eyes should be pointed down to the bottom of the pool directly below your nose. Most swimmers tend to look forward because animalistic instinct tells you to look where you are going. The YMCA, like most respected pools, was nice enough to paint bright lines on the bottom of the pool with a warning T near the end. My stiffy made sure that looking straight down at the bottom of the pool was pretty much the only option.

I Want to See Her Again
One thing that swimmers are prone to is scheduling. This is a good thing. No! a great thing. Many of coaches, myself included, believe that the best way to develop first class skill in anything is to be consistent. Most swimmers will work pool time into their lives and return to the same place at the same time with amazing predictability. I haven't been consistent in the water. But now that the seal has been broken, I hope to become a swimmer again and get back on a regular basis. Plus, I can't get her out of my mind. Next week, I may add 'stalker' to my list. I am considering a scientific approach of going early, staying late, and recording the times when she is there. When I have compiled the data, I will set my 'consistency' based on her schedule. That blind woman role model was really inspiring.