Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WW- Addiction

I have a friend who claims that I don't understand the emotional side of addiction. Every time we have this discussion, I mention 2 unrelated words combined together that scream addiction; Iron and man. If you do the Ironman just once, it's a lifetime experience. If you do it many times, you run the risk of foresaking everything that is important to you.

Training for triathlon is not the first time I've had an addiction. I used to lose sleep by playing video games. It started when I was a kid. No, I was not the first to flip Space Invaders, but I did rule the block in Megamania and RiverRaid. Long live Atari.

After we upgraded to the 2600, life got good. Eventually, we got the Commodore 64 and then the 64 which would become the 128 (assuming that we pressed the right button at start-up). There was a downward spiral through the early 90s which was highlighted by my Street Fighter II championship on my dorm floor.

After I got married, it was agreed that I would not purchase one of those gaming systems. No Wii. No Nintendo. X-box. This simple fact is probably the reason I'm still happily married (unsure about her level of happiness which is a completely different issue).

Thank god for the internet. Apparently, I can combine my age old gaming addiction with my replacement addiction of triathlon. I present:

Extreme Triathlon- The Video Game!

With just a couple of key strokes, I can force my guy to swim.
What's nice about the swim is that it's super- realistic. No wetsuits. Boulders on the sidelines. And, large obstacles in the water, such as tree branches (or possibly full blown trees). Just like in real life, you have to press z to dive under the wood.

The transition is sequestered by USAT rules. Normally, you would find you bike sitting on it's kick stand (because $3000 carbon fiber triathlon bikes with aero wheels come complete with this assessory). Your helmet can be found on the ground. Mount and go.

While riding, follow these simple tips. Pedal. Don't tuck into aero unless you are going down hill. Avoid the many rocks, trees, oil slicks and other debris conveniently left on the course. Why the race directors chose not to clean the route is beyond me but I may be asking for my race fee back.

Back in transition, you are required to toss your helmet to the side. Racking your bike is simple; toss it on the ground. Maybe their bikes are better built than mine.

Running in the race is similar to the Steeplechase. Jump over stuff. Grab fluid along the way (absolutely necessary when competing in a 2 minute race). Running through large bushes and shrubs will slow you.

And, just like in real life... I suck.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The 2012 Lenten Challenge

Last year, I had this less than swell idea. First, I hypothesized about the function of Lent and I'm pretty sure I hit the nail on the head. Then, to honor the season I decided to do 40 days of working out. Due to some really shady math system established by the Christian calendar many hundreds of years ago, 40 days became 46 days of working out. I hated it.

I promised that I wouldn't do that again. As it turns out, I am a complete idiot. I have every intention of working out everyday between now and Easter. And, as it turns out, I am a couple of days behind (see 'Exceptions to the Rules' below).

My Proposed Workout Schedule
I call this the classic 5, 4, 3, 2 schedule. 5 rides. 4 runs. 3 swims. 2 lifts. 1+1 optional bike and run. Bike rides must be longer than 30 minutes in order to count. Runs must be longer than 3 miles to count. Swims should be done in a pool. I have no criteria on lifting. In fact, the only reason  I lift weights is to get revenge on the bully that steals my lunch money the Wife insists that I have more chest muscle than her.

1. Workout daily
2. Continue until Easter

Seems easy, right? Like every challenge, there's some fine print.

Exceptions to the Rules (I.E. excuses to not workout)
1. Severe illness
2. Injury
3. Wife veto (she might want some Banter time)

Since Lent actually started last Wednesday, I should have posted this nearly a week ago. I have not been keeping up. No exercise on Wed, Thur, Fri, nor Sat. I did go for a ride yesterday. The rhinovirus conveniently handed me exception #1. Pending no further interactions with my students (good luck on your tests), avoiding any knee pain, or extra time with the Wife, I'll have roughly 42 days of working out. Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Going Viral

This week was 'Winter Break' in the great state of NY. See, New York had this great idea that started sometime around the end of the last ice age. The greatest scientists and politicians of the Pleistocene Epoch crunched the data and noticed that February is the traditional coldest month of the year.

The Goal: Reduce energy spending in the public schools

The Method: Give the kids a week off school. By turning down the thermostats and turning off the lights, the state can save millions of dollars.

Collateral Damage of the Method: Parents must find ways to occupy their children during the day for a week in February. Most of that time is spent watching TV, playing video games, or browsing the internet resulting in brain decay and copious amounts of intellectual regression.

The Problem with the Method: In the old days, schools actually did turn things off. Now, in the days of automation and increased complexity of the school systems, relatively little is saved. School buildings are very busy places because they refuse to give certain staff the week off too (technicians, maintenance, housekeeping, secretaries, support services, etc.)

The Unexpected Benefit: The state had no idea when they planned this February break that I would become a triathlete. I get to use this time to provide a big boost to my training. I have 9 days of next to no responsibilities to really hammer out my training. Essentially, I get to become a pro. I can train as long as I want. I can take a nap in the middle of the day. The school still sends me a pay check.

The Problem with the Unexpected Benefit: Teaching is a dangerous occupation. Kids are not the most sanitary of individuals and germs spread like a California wildfire. Here's the bug that got me:

From the NIH
I would like to introduce the Human Rhinovirus. This nasty devil is not much more than a batch of protein surrounding a small stick of RNA. It's burr-like tentacles allow it to float freely through the air, from one student into their most hated teacher. Once this little incubus gets inside, it's hooks burrow their way into your upper respiratory system and injects its tube of RNA into your cells with syringe-like efficiency, turning your respiratory tract into a rhinovirus factory.

The Consequence of the Problem with the Unexpected Benefit: My professional triathlon career was over before it got started. The incubation process for the virus is about 2-3 days. I picked it up (through deductive reasoning after the fact) on Friday before break. On Monday morning, I started to feel a tickle. By Monday night, the nose was running. By Tuesday morning, I was in full blown misery. I didn't sleep for 3 straight days due to an inability to breathe. I did get some sleep last night, but it wasn't nearly long enough nor of high quality.

Collateral Damage of the Consequence of the Problem with the Unexpected Benefit: I went way over budget for the month of February in Puffs brand facial tissues. If you were a smart investor, you'd buy stock and reap the dividends of my cold.

The Blame: Of course, the state is fully at fault for this illness. If they hadn't come up with the idea of having a Winter Break, I wouldn't have gotten sick. They should do away with this useless week off. We get an official Spring Break in April. I would much rather trade the February break week for an earlier dismissal in June. Assuming state officials read my blog (which is highly likely), then not only will we be able to graduate our students a week earlier, but the total number of illnesses in the month of February will be dramatically decreased.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

WW- Social Media

I've been receiving a lot of spam mail lately. I get the normal garble about enhancing my size, her pleasure, my libido, etc. I have also been getting a lot of "Linkedin" requests. I was pretty sure that Linkedin is code for "I gonna attach a nasty virus to your computer and send out requests to enhance your (size, pleasure, libido, etc.)" so I normally delete them. Then, I had a conversation with the Wife, who's kinda into computers, and she tells me that Linkedin is a legitimate social networking site. I didn't know they had such things. They must have popped up over night. So, I did some research. Here's the social media landscape...

Way. Over. My. Head. So, I tried to find an easy way to explain it. Here's how social media looks from a Shamrock Shake perspective.

For those of you who like donuts.
 For those of you who suck at social media (or really like donuts)...

 Just in case you are over hydrated...

If you only have the intelligence of a 7th grader, here's a way to help you understand...

Monday, February 20, 2012

No Sympathy for the Elderly

I started swimming again. I haven't been in the water since September. I want to get an early start this year. I was motivated to start swimming in January but then again, so is everybody else. See, January is New Year's Resolution season. It takes the resoluters about 3 weeks to run out of steam. February seemed like a good time to develop a routine that I can continue throughout the season. So far, I have failed miserably. But, I am getting closer.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. I really like the YMCA. It is a poorly named establishment, given that it is neither Y, nor M, and for the most part, not really C. I'm pretty sure that the A stands for 'awesome' and that it is. I have been swimming at my Y for the better part of a decade now. They have renovated the entire building including the pool. But, from a people standpoint, not much has changed.

We have the same denizens hanging out in the drink that have been there, well, probably since before I was born. This story is about one man whom I'll call Doc.

The Tale of Doc
Doc is not really a nickname, it's an official title. He is in his 80s and a retired medic. He has also been on a swim team and coached several teams of his own. He's one of the few people in the pool who use it for actual swimming.

Doc is a friendly, well spoken, young man. I can imagine him being the kind of doctor that everyone liked and respected. His attitude and warm smile (which is always on) make you believe that he had a superb bed-side-manner. I like Doc a lot.

I also avoid him like the plague. It's those same qualities that make Doc so likable that also make him a certain kind of a nuisance. He can hold a conversation with anyone at any time. I want to talk to him. But, he's retired and has hours on end. I have to go to work. Once I get wrapped up in Doc talk, it's bye bye workout. I only give myself about 45 minutes of lap time before the boss gets mad at me for missing class. It's either talk to Doc or do my set. As much as the former sounds appealing on more than one level, I opt for the latter. That usually means staring at the deck clock instead of making eye contact with Doc.

On my third swim this season, I had the pleasure of swimming a nice set and getting out of the pool in plenty of time. My locker was parked right next to Doc's, who was chit chatting with some other retired guy very near my changing space. Doc flashes his award winning smile, 80-something year old teeth still gleaming. He introduced his friend. (Everyone is Doc's friend. Seriously, you can't not like this guy). The three of use made idle conversation, just like the kind that will kill my workout. Today, however, it did not impede my ability to change and get ready for work.

Now, for some reason, Doc looked at me and started telling me that he has been struggling in the water lately. Okay, there are several reasons he is telling me this. First, he's a swimmer and I'm a swimmer. We're water brethren and able to understand the other's woes. Second, he knows that I was watching from my lane, about 15 feet to the left. Third, he's looking for advice.

Since I've been going to the Y, people have been talking me up about all sorts of swimming topics. Doc normally tells me stories of the old days. Back before butterfly was invented and side-stroke was competitive. Before you could do flip turns on your back. Before women were allowed in the Y. Before men had to swim with suits. (Aside: I have divided feelings about an all-male, naked pool session. End aside.) Today, Doc was telling me about his shoulder pain.

This is new for me. Doc is a doctor. Why should a trained and skilled practitioner of his profession start telling an idiot about pain in his right rotator cuff? Then, it hit me, he knows that I have been watching. It's true that his stroke was off but I didn't really analyze.

"I'm having trouble with my shoulder. It's sore." says Doc. I waited knowing that there's more words to be made.

"It hurts most when I breathe on my right side. I'm trying to breathe on my left but I find it's really hard." Now, he paused and looked at me expectantly. "I had to cut my swim short today." The smile is, for once, gone from his face.

Doc is searching for something. Looking back, I probably handled the situation correctly. I did not give him any sympathy. He's an athlete, a swimmer, and a strong minded man. I did not give him any advice. I had none to give him. I did give him a nice grimace and a scalding. I looked at him dead in the eyes and said...

"Shut up and do the work."

He laughed and said, "I guess I'll get no sympathy from you. And, you know what, you are right. I'll do better tomorrow." Sure enough, I saw him the next time (which was 3 days later), doing his work and awkwardly breathing on his left.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

WW- Carbon Fiber Bike Abuse

You ever have one of those weeks when you just miss a day? I'm pretty sure today is Wednesday. Granted, every bit of data says that I am completely wrong. The time stamp on my computer says it's Thursday. It is quite possible that one of us, me or the rest of the world, is stuck in some sort of time variance. After much pondering, I think I figured it out...

I did going for a bike ride yesterday, which was Tuesday. There is a very high chance that I was riding at or near the speed of light. I have not achieved these speeds in the past but training is going rather well this winter so I cannot count it out. Now, if Einstein is to be believed, that means time and space bent around me. Time ran normal from my perspective. But, from your relative place in the world, my time was slower from yours. As I neared the end of my ride, I rejoined your time-space continuum, only one day later from your perspective. I lost a day, all without leaving the confines of my basement. I love it when science provides the answers.

Since today is Wednesday, I owe you something fun. This post was inspired by the BIL. Recently, he had upgraded his ride from an old, steel monstrosity of a road bike to something sleek and sexy, made completely of carbon. Carbon is smooth, light and fast. However, it is not as strong as aluminum, iron, or titanium (the other main options for bike building materials). I have been riding a carbon bike for years. The BIL is a carbon rookie. Therefore, I'd like to pass on some words of wisdom on how to take care of your carbon masterpiece. The video will show you what will happen should you (or the BIL) decide not to heed the warnings.

Do's and Don'ts For Your Carbon
-Don't remove your aerobars from a tri-bike frame. The result will be an imbalance which makes bike handling hard to control.
-Do inflate your tires to their maximum amount. Failure to do so can result in tire malfunction with dire results.
-Do avoid obstacles. Holes in the road. Stairs. Dirt paths. Large rocks. All of these pose threats to the integrity of the frame.
-Don't mount aero wheels for training rides. (Aero wheels can easily be identified by larger than normal material on the rim. Normal material is about 1-1.5 inches past the tire or just enough to provide a braking surface for the calipers.) Aero wheels are lighter, more expensive and can warp under abnormal circumstances.
-Don't wear baggy pants/ shorts on your carbon. There are a lot of moving parts on the bike which can snag. The added drag will slow you down. Plus, it makes you look less cool.
-Do wear protective gear at all times. Helmet, gloves, and glasses are the bare minimum. Knee pads are probably overboard.

Following these simple tips will ensure a long life for your carbon frame and ensure you won't look like one of these guys.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I think Lance Reads My Blog

A couple a posts ago, I had a dream. Mine was about some has-been triathlete, turned has-been cyclist, who has decided to once again become a triathlete. In my dream sequence, I told Lance that he needed to qualify for Kona, despite the fact that he could walk on to the starting line at his leisure.

I'm assuming that since Lance has no job and has an entire group of people available to manage his philanthropic endeavors, he's got a lot of time on his hands. And, since we are both endurance athletes, he spends his free time in much the same way I do... Trolling the internet for useless semi-entertaining blog posts. That's when, I assume, he came across my blog and it's insightful musings about earning higher respect should he decide to qualify instead of accepting a celebrity invitation to the big show.

Of course, Lance isn't one to balk at a challenge. He decided to try and qualify. And, in true Lance form, he decided to one-up the Banter. He's not going to try and qualify as a low-life age grouper, he's going in as a pro.

So, here we have Lance Armstrong, 40 years-old, hasn't done a legit road tri in like half a century, has only done one 70.3 distance (I think) in his life, has decided that he's going to try the pro-triathlon circuit for a while. Good luck to you old chap. Triathlon is more than spinning your over-sized quads in tiny circles. You also have to swim and run some too. He'd better start training.

The First Race Back
Lance decided to test the triathlon waters at the Panama 70.3. The field was stacked with lots of Grade A, finger licking good, cream of the crop professional triathletes. Chris Lieto. Rasmus Henning. Matty Reed. Bevan Docherty. Richie Cunningham (not the kid from Happy Days). All of these guys are amazing athletes and capable of winning. The show down was billed as a Lieto vs Lance, which was odd as Lieto is an accomplished long course guy. Lance is, well, he's Lance.

For the most part, Panama is a race that not many people will actually watch on TV. Me included- as it wasn't televised. There was some live text updates on the website. Still, tens of people who would have never tuned in were glued to their monitor screens, me amongst them. I wanted to see how Lance would do in a real race, not that crappy thing on some hills in France.

Did Lance win the swim? Nope. Of the top ten finishers in the race, he finished 4th in the swim.
Did Lance win the bike? Nope. There were at least 2 people that beat him by 20-30 seconds.
Did Lance win the run? Nope. 5 dudes in the top 10 beat him as did one chick.

Fine. Did Lance win the race? Nope. This guy did.
This is Bevan Docherty. He's a complete nobody. All he's ever done is dominate the ITU circuit and win an Olympic Silver. How could such a minimal talent guy named Bevan win the race? He had a crappy swim. 2nd place by 6 seconds. His bike leg wasn't much to write home about, 5th place amongst the leaders. At least his run didn't suck, he happened to post the fastest time of the day, big deal. (This paragraph is mostly sarcasm, except for the 'he won' bit.)

So, where was Lance? He finished an embarrassing 2nd. Bevan beat him by a whopping 40 something seconds. In Lance's defense, he came off the bike in the runner up position to Chris Lieto. Lieto is know as one of the top cyclists in triathlon. Lance decided to play it conservative and hung with Chris. Chris has struggled on the run in the past. Nobody had any idea as to how Lance would do in sneakers, including Lance. Much to everyone's surprise, Lance passed Chris early and lead most of the run. Bevan passed Lance in the last mile or so, smoking in for the win. Lance finished, as seemed to be the story of his day, in 2nd place.

Not bad for a guy, who just a few short weeks ago, had nothing going for him. He had no job. He had retired from cycling. Lucky for him, he still has internet access. If I didn't have a dream, a blog, and the gumption, Lance may have never gotten the idea to try and qualify for Kona. Now, he's a professional triathlete chasing points to qualify for the World Championship. If it wasn't for me and my blog, Lance may have been sitting on his couch in Austin, TX doing nothing with his life. Mr. Armstrong, you are welcome.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Essence of a Bad Success

A man and his dog are in the midst of a 5.5 mile tempo run. It is cold and dark outside. Winter. Morning. The schedule calls for a tempo pace, which is roughly 7:30 per mile. The run is not going well. At the 3.0 mile mark, the man glances at his Garmin. His average pace is 7:35 and he is slowing.

They near a crossroads. The dog looks up at the man. They have been here before. The dog knows that a decision is going to be made. There are 4 possible options:
1. Go right. This is the planned route. However, there is a large hill that will cause the pace to drop even slower than the goal.
2. Go straight ahead. This route is the same distance as option 1. However, it skirts the hill keeping the run nearly flat.
3. Go left. This is the short cut back home cutting the distance by about a 1/2 mile.
4. Turn around and go back. This is the only option not being considered
The dog has a skill that allows him to keep eye contact with the man while running in a completely straight line and avoiding obstacles. The man is often jealous of this skill. Not today. He hardly notices the talent being fulfilled. His brain is pondering the options. Emotions are strong. Option 1 will guarantee failure for the goal pace. That hill is pretty tough. Pain and suffering lie on that hill. Option 2 will be the same distance but faster. It provides equal distance and more speed with less work. Option 3 will put an end to this abysmal run sooner. Appealing.  But it will cut the distance. At this stage, it's not out of the question.

Upon hitting the crossroads, the man turns right with the dog on his heel. He plods up the hill, the agony of the effort is clear on every step. The way down isn't much better. The cold temperatures have frosted the concrete with enough ice making the the descent more cautious than aggressive.

At the completion of his run, the man stops recording data on his Garmin and, as usual, checks his averages. Average pace for the run 7:47. Not bad if you are an airplane. Not good if you are in the midst of a 7:30 tempo run. However, the man smiles with a satisfaction well earned. One bad run will not make or break the training. He giggles at the Yoda reference bouncing around in his mind. The man knows that if he gives in to the short or easy path, forever will it dominate his training destiny. This is the essence of his training season (hopefully).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

WW Change the Blog?

This clip reminded me of high school (probably because I was in high school at the time it aired on TV). In the great state of Illinois, there is a law that requires Physical Education classes every day of every year of your high school life. I didn't mind.

This year, we happened to have a female teacher that was quite similar to Coach Beiste on Glee, only not as feminine. My PE class had 30 students, only 5 of them males. You gotta like that female to male ratio (especially when you are on the buyers side of the equation). This would have made my PE class ideal until you realize that I was a 100 pound cross country runner with bright orange, mullet style hair who got straight A's in school. Yup, none of the girls were remotely interested in me, even at those odds. If they were, I had none of the confidence to recognize or act upon said interests, bumping my appeal down a few notches.

To add insult to geekiness, Coach What's Her Name had scheduled a 5-week aerobics unit. You remember aerobics, right? Leg warmers. Tights. Bass-laden, repetitive club music. Some guy or gal walked you through the dance steps in 8-beat sets. Step up. Step down. Sache.  Coach would put a VHS into the 24 inch cathode ray tube and allow the electronic teacher to walk us through the moves. Richard Simmons made more than one appearance during this month of awkwardness.

Coach should have showed us what the pros were doing. Maybe then we would have realized the awesomeness of aerobics. Maybe then a young nerd with the male ego seeds just starting to spurt could have set his sights on winning one of these competitions. Maybe then, this blog would be called Aerobic-Banter.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

2012 Performace Goals

Goal setting is what defines the difference between working out and training. Training is basically working out with a purpose. The purpose? Achieving your goals.

The most intelligent of goal setters follow a few simple rules. First, goals are SMART (simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely). Meaning that the goals are something you can actually do in the course of a season. Second, goals should not depend on other people. You should be able to accomplish your goals without the mishaps of someone else. Third, don't set too many goals for a season. There's only so much you can expect to accomplish. Prioritize your desires to the top three. Achieve those goals and you can set new ones.

Now that I've given you a brief synopsis of how to set good goals, I should warn you: I don't follow these rules very well. I am a crappy goal setter. I have my own version of a Top Ten list.

My 2012 Performance Goals
1. Not die
2. Have fun
3. Not get injured
4. Finish the season with enough positive vibes to want to do it again next year
5. Sub 10 hour IMLP (PR is sitting at 11:33)
6. Sub 4:45 HIM (PR at 5:08)
7. Sub 20 minute 5k (not accomplished since HS and then only once)
8. Sub 20 5k in sprint tri
9. Sub 44 10k in Oly (I would add sub 44 in an open 10k but I really don't want to sign up for that)
10. Non-AG podium finish in any race (PR is 4th place)

Keep in mind that my goals #1-4 are the same every season and I believe that they should be the same universally. Goal 5 has been a long standing goal and is the drive for all the other goals on the list. Goal 6 is a benchmark for goal 5. Goals 7-9 could be condensed into one goal and are a means to an end (goal 5). Goal 10, even though it violates the third rule of goal setting, is just because I'm stubborn and I want it.

So, when you look at the list, I really have some universally accepted sport behaviors. I have 1 real goal. I have 4 benchmarks. And I have one desire. Maybe I didn't do so bad at goal setting after all.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WW- Jumping on the Sh** Bandwagon

There's a new wave of videos that's hitting YouTube. It's appropriately called "Sh** _______ Say." I'm not really sure who started it but I'm a big fan. I would be remiss if you have no idea what I'm talking about and I did nothing to remedy your lack on knowledge.

So far, I'm aware of the Sh** Runners, Ultra-Runners, Barefoot Runners, Swimmers, Triathletes, and Triathletes Say. Since this is a Triathlon focused site, I'll present to you the Sh** Triathletes Say. I had no idea that we triathletes are a dime a dozen. Of all of the catch phrases you'll see in the following clips, I have muttered at least 90% of them.

Here's the original:

For the record, I'm a big fan of carbon and am quite concerned about my head position.

Here's the follow up:

Sorry Melanie, I have not, nor will not, do 100 x 100s for any reason. But, in your defense, I know lots of people who have.

What other Sh** am I missing out on?