Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WW- Happy Halloween

We had a Wind Day at school yesterday. I had no idea Wind Days even existed. They are exactly the same as Snow Days except that there was no snow. Schools in the area closed their doors due to potentially unsafe conditions. Wind gusts were bordering 70 mph. Trees were falling. Power was going out. Rivers were rising. Beaches were eroding. It was chaos. I turned off my morning alarm and slept in until 7:00.

I had every intention of running in Hurricane Sandy. Sure, it's not that smart but I would feel more like a man. A running man. Only thing is that my manhood never came. The winds subsided to the lower 20s while the temps were in the 50s. I felt guilty for not going to school on what could have otherwise been labeled a pleasant autumn day. I had a pretty good run though.

The departure of the Hurricane sets up the arrival of Halloween. For most of us, that means triathlon season is completely over. It will be a good 6 months from now until multisport returns to the area. That doesn't mean we can't keep in the triathlon spirit. If you're anything like me, you already miss SBR. Here's some ways to keep in the triathlon mindset, and celebrate Halloween, while the elements make it difficult to spend quality training time.

Looking for costume ideas. Might I suggest Compression Man.

Or you could help control traffic at your next race (which will probably be a running-only event).

Dressing up not your thing? Maybe, if you are an adult loser, you can settle for triathlon related jack-o-lanterns.

The Running-O-Lantern

The Cycling-O-Lantern

Or, my personal favorite, the Swimmer-O-Lantern

Monday, October 29, 2012

Angus Lessons- Pacing Your Season

Editor's note: As if Mother Nature read my last post on Perseverance, the great northeast is being beseiged with Hurricane Sandy. Rains and wind gusts up to 65 mph. I have every intention of running tomorrow morning. If Julie and Colin can row in a hurricane, I can run.

As I reflect on my interactions with the dynamic duo of Julie and Colin Angus, I was recalling some of the question and answer sessions in which they were involved. Mind you, they expertly participated in roughly 3000 Q&As over the course of a 2 day span. Oddly, many of their questions were not age limited. Kids, elementary school through high school and even adults, were very curious about the nuances of their travels. Here's a list of the most common questions asked to the mighty adventurers:
Nothing like asking a couple of the top adventurers in the world the hard hitting questions. That's some high quality learning opportunities there. There was one question, however, that was repeatedly asked which peaked my interest:
  • How do you train for something like that?
In case you are new here, let me clarify the 'something like that' bit. Colin walked, skied, biked, and rowed a boat starting at his house and continued west until he ended at his house. He made it around the globe using zero drops of gasoline. That feat makes my owning of a hybrid seem a little weak. Julie became the first and only woman to row a boat all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. She did that just after biking across Europe. In contrast, I rode my bike in the garage for an hour yesterday.

 So, back to the question at hand- How do you train for something like that?

Each time the question was asked, the audience grew quiet. Pens were on paper ready to record the wisdom of the ages. People wanted to know the magic behind getting the body ready for a venture that would span many thousands of miles. You can see that lives were about to be changed.

"You don't," said Julie and Colin.

The disbelief was palpable. Shoulders slumped. Faces contorted as minds tried to absorb the simple sentence just spoken. Luckily, the Angus's put it into perspective.

Colin's Take
On the first part of his journey the desert was full of life, there were plants and birds and rocks and things he was in a row boat for many days as he slowly crept his way across the sea into Asia. Instead of training, he was preparing all of the necessary gear and planning routes. Then he rowed. After the rowing, he biked for a very long time (the better part of a year). Any bike training that he would have done was lost on the first rowing. Then, any rowing training we accumulated would have been lost on the bike ride. There was simply no way to physically prepare for the excursion.

Julie's Take
Julie was in a very similar situation. She met Colin somewhere in Eurasia for the final portion of his bike ride. If she had any rowing adaptations from specialized training, they would have worked their way out of her arm muscles and into her legs. Then, somewhere in Portugal, she got in a boat and took up the oars. Now it was row, row, row your boat, gently across the Atlantic- a 5-month journey. You really cannot train for something like that.

The Take Home Message
Luckily, Julie and Colin are nice people and they kept talking. They did give their audience a plan of attack for starting an adventure. I found this advice to be spot on in starting any new adventure, beit training for an Ironman, starting a new career or life in general.

"Start slowly," they said. "It's really easy at the beginning to have all of this energy and want to get a head start on the job. But, this can have grave consequences. There's nothing worse than a repetitive stress injury or burn out in the first month of the adventure."

It's a shame people had stopped writing things down. That's pure gold right there. They went on to explain that they insist that the first 2 weeks are slow and steady, while emphasizing slow. That's how long it takes for them to establish a routine and for their bodies to gain the necessary adaptations for the work. So long as they don't stop and keep progressing towards the goal, they were not in a hurry. After 2 weeks, they can build intensity if they want to.

This sounds very similar to what all of the experts say about endurance training. In the first part of your training routine, never focus on speed. Everything should be slow and steady. Let your body adapt to the new schedule and the activity. In my opinion, 2 weeks is not nearly long enough for slow steady work. It takes me roughly 6 weeks before I get comfortable doing anything closely related to intensity.

To apply this to sport: One of my athletes is training for a marathon in late summer, 2013. Her current schedule is as follows: run 5 days a week at a minimum of 3 miles a session. Do that for 3 weeks in a row. If she fails during any of those weeks. She starts over. We have no current focus on speed, hills, or intensity. Her specific instructions are that she needs to be able to run tomorrow comfortably after today's effort. When she succeeds at that schedule, her next block will be very similar. Run 6 days a week for 3 weeks in a row. At the end of that block, she's going to be in some pretty good shape to tackle the next stages of training. Her body will be on the right path to handle the stress load for the impending marathon.

So, once again, thanks Julie and Colin for your sage advice. Your wisdom learned through arduous experience is spot on.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Angus Lessons- Perseverance

My mind keeps wandering back to the Angus', Julie and Colin. I hung out with them for a couple of days and listened to many of their stories. In doing so, I learned a lot of lessons, many which can be applied to sport. I'll share one of those lessons with you now.

To Recap
Colin traveled across the globe on nothing but the power of his own muscles. He had to row across the Bering Sea. And ride a bike through China, Russia, and Siberia in the middle of winter. What exactly does that look like? A little something like this...

And to think that I won't ride my bike when the temperature is below 40º F

Julie rowed a tiny boat from Europe to America, across the Atlantic, through a hurricane (and other obstacles).  When others before her had done this, there were distinct differences. First, they were all men. Second, they always had a support crew to feed them, water them, etc. Julie had a dude (see bearded guy above), fishing pole and a boat. What did that look like when they finished? A little something like this...

Here's what I learned from their Adventures: Don't stop.

That's as simple and as complex as you can get in sport. And, it applies perfectly to endurance training. When your goal is to get from point A to point B, guess where stopping gets you? Nowhere. And that was the Angus Point (patent pending).

Moving towards your goal, even slowly, is still helping achieve your goal. Good stuff right there.

A Case Study
How does this affect me? Great question. Take, for example, my triathlon obsession frosted with the Ironman. I'd really like to get good at it. So far, I suck. That's okay, I can cope with my crappiness. One of my underlying weaknesses is my running. Therefore, I have started to dedicate myself into trying to become a runner. Not an easy task for the slow and weak (meaning me).

To achieve this goal, I have started running more. Sadly, the only real way to get good at running is to actually run (a fact I have worked hard to avoid for a long time now). Currently I am at 5 days a week on my way up to 6 and doing them in the morning. Morning running is actually advantageous. It removes all the excuses later in the day for not running.

However, there is a dark side to morning running. Specifically, it's dark outside. Worse, now that the sun has dropped below the equator, it's not as warm as it used to be. Plus, I am typically tired at 5:30 am. Then, the other day, it rained. That's 5 whammies: Dark. Cold. Tired. Rainy. Pansy (the last one is assumed). In the past, any 3 pack combination was enough to kick me out of my running shoes and back into bed.

That's where I draw on the experiences of the Angus Clan. I am seriously motivated by these people. It didn't matter if it was cold, or they were tired, or they had a boo boo on their pinky toe, blah blah blah. Stopping meant not getting home. The only real option was to keep going. Now, I won't be dragging the Wife around the world any time soon. (Aside: We talked about it. The biggest problem, in her mind, is that she doesn't like seafood and she has her doubts that I'll be able to reel in a cow while in the middle of the Ocean. End Aside.) I also won't be using crappy excuses to not train.

So, with Julie and Colin's lesson on perseverance, I went for my dark, chilly, rainy, tired, pansy-esque run. And guess what happened? It didn't suck. I had a great run despite the obstacles. And that great run motivated me to get up the next morning and run again. Guess what happened? I had a great run. And that great run... Well, you can see where this is going.

I'm pretty sure that's the way it goes with life and I'm definitely sure that's the way it goes with sport. Once you get into a habit of greats, more greats come. Once you get into a habit of laziness, more laziness comes. Being lazy will not solve my running problem.

The only way to get back home is to keep going. Persevere and you will get there.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WW- Acceptable Plagerism on Chuck Norris

Part 1
Long before I became a blogger, but well after the invention of the internet, I was browsing the site. It's a pretty good site. It has training, race reports, and the what-not happenstances in triathlon.

Anyway, like I said, this story takes place a while ago, they had a competition.

If Chuck Norris raced a triathlon contest...

As you may or may not know, Chuck Norris is not a triathlete. However, let's pretend he WAS a triathlete, what would be some of the Chuck-facts? I was ready for this contest.

Part 2
Recently, I was led to I cannot believe I had never heard of this site before. It's got some good stuff. On it's list of awesome...

  • Chuck Norris likes his toast with body glide and chain grease. What does he use to lube his chain? Terrorist tears.
  • Chuck Norris didn’t get an Ironman tattoo, Ironman got a tattoo of Chuck Norris.
  • Chuck Norris does not use Body Glide; his nipples can cut steel.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t need a wetsuite because water gets out of his way.
  • Chuck Norris eats actual hammers for nutrition.
  • Chuck Norris did Ironman Wisconsin and Ironman New Orleans. He never stopped swimming. The Mississippi River was created.
  • Chuck Norris has only wrecked once, in Ironman Arizona. The aftermath of his crash is commonly known as The Grand Canyon.
  • Chuck Norris has no need for aero bars, disc wheels, or a helmet. He simply stairs down the air and it moves out of his way.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t wear a timing chip on his ankle. Once the race is over HE decides what his time should be.
  • Chuck Norris does not need a razor to shave his legs. He just has to flex.
  • Chuck Norris can volunteer at a triathlon and still win it.
  • You know what Chuck Norris puts in his fuel belt? Fuel.
  • Chuck Norris had to stop training for the bike. When he rode from east to west, the Earth’s rotation changed causing time to reverse. Later, the makers of Superman II stole his idea.*
  • When Chuck Norris did Ironman, the lead motorcycle had to draft off him just to keep up
  • Chuck Norris is allowed to buy “Finisher merchandise before the race.
  • During the post-ironman interview, Chuck Norris responded with, “What race?”*
  • If Chuck Norris got a flat on the bike, he would just take yours.
  • The ongoing wind on the Queen K was created by one of Chuck’s round house kicks in 1983.
Part 3
Go back to the contest link. Here it is again in case you are too lazy to scroll up.
Step 1- Scroll to the bottom of the comments section
Step 1.5 (Optional)- Read through some of the comments
Step 2- Click on the "Show more comments"
Step 3- Repeat Steps 1-2 three (3) times
Step 4- Find comments posted by an idiot named Gary D.
That's right! usurped my Chuck Norris jokes. They actually printed, not 1 but, 2 of my Chuck Norris creations marked * above. I am honored. You are welcome I like your site and the work that you do.

P.S. As expected,  I did not win the contest. I finished 4th.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Angus Adventures- The Intro

A couple of months ago, I got called over to a short meeting with the school's PR/ Fund Development Guy. He asked me if I would be willing to escort this year's speakers. To be honest, I've never been a male escort before and I had no idea what the task entailed. Details please.

"Well," he said, "You basically give up everything important in your life to take care of every possible need for 2 adults that could easily take care of themselves for 2 days in a row. It's exactly the same as having to babysit 2-year olds with the genius level IQ." (Okay, I must confess that I am doing my best to recall the conversation in its entirety. It was a couple of months ago and I didn't realize its importance until recently. I may be misremembering some of the details.)

"What's the catch?" I thought to myself. What actually came out was, "Why are you asking me?" It turns out that this year's presenters are into endurance sport kinda stuff. They had done a fair amount of biking, hiking, and rowing. The Fund Dev Guy thought that I was the closest thing on campus that they could relate to. That sounded reasonable. I have a degree in science. I never go to parties. For fun, I exercise. I once ate a bug on purpose. I relate to just about everybody. If it was relations he wanted me to have with these 2 people, then relations I would have. I agreed.

"And Banter, there is one more thing," he said. " Don't let them die." (That may or may not have actually been said.)

The First Meeting
The presenters were Julie and Colin Angus. I purposely didn't do any research on the pair. I get starstruck pretty easily and I didn't want that to impair my judgement. I knew that they were celebrities of some sort. From the info disseminated at my school, I knew that Colin had circumvented the globe via nothing than human power (which is much different than circumcision, I later learned). I knew that Julie became the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean without a support boat. I also knew they were Canadian. That's about it. They had a clean slate from my perspective.

My first responsibility was to pick them up from their hotel and drive them to school. Pick up time: 8:00 am. Banter Arrival Time? 8:07 (being prompt is proven, once again, not in my skill set). Having not done any research on the team, I had no idea what they looked like. Luckily, there were only 2 people sitting comfortably in the hotel lobby. Guessing their identity at this point was fairly easy.
Julie Angus was closest to me so naturally my eyes gazed upon her first. She stood about 5'9 with an obviously athletic physique. Her brunette locks waved down over her shoulders and could have provided enough hair to fit a couple of other heads. Her skin was glowing a nice olive tone, the kind found on Mediterranean supermodels and is often mistaken for a natural, all-over tan. Her face was warm and pleasant. She smiled at me and walked in my direction with her hand raised in greeting. After giving her a subtle up-and-down, I instantly thought to myself, "This woman is a molecular biologist." Glad to see I nailed that one.
Colin Angus was directly behind her. I, um, didn't see him at first. He was just as tall as me and roughly the same build. His hair was a short, a bit disheveled, and dirty blonde-ish in color. He reminded me of one with a Scandinavian decent, possibly a Viking (it turns out he's Scottish Canadian). His blue eyes showed a deep form of intelligence where as his facial features and posture indicated his ultimate love and joy for life. My overall initial impression was that he could have been a poster child for the 'average guy' (something that I believe he gets a lot).

The Facts
These 2 have quite simply done some amazing things. Julie was/ is the first and only woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean. With nothing more than her boat, whatever supplies she could stuff in the boat, her fiance (not sure where she stuffed him but she did end up marrying the bloke) and the ambition to row across the Atlantic. It was an amazing story.

(Editor's Note: I'm trying my best not to rob any of the good details from their presentation or their story line. They have a book about the adventure called Rowboat in a Hurricane, which should tell you that not everything on the trip went as planned. I have not read this book, yet, but I have heard good things about it. Such as, it was a National Best Seller.)

Yes, that's the same guy
Colin is clearly driven by the male ego gene. See, his wife went across the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. He couldn't handle the fact that this is a cool accomplishment and let her have all of the glory. He had to one-up her. He decided that not only would he do the Atlantic Ocean thing, but he would also do the rest of the world. Without using any petro. Allowed items, bicycle, shoes, skis, rowboat. That's it. Once in a while, he was allowed to have some food and he could drink only what he could chisel off a glacier with his bare hands. He did happen to bring along a tent and some toiletries. Although, as I understand it, he forgot to pack a razor.

His book, Beyond the Horizon, was also a National Best Seller. The adventure took just under 2 years and was full of fun stuff.

There's a whole list of other things too. There was the time when they were voted the "Adventurer of the Year-2006" Award by this no-name publication called National Geographic. Outside Magazine, in the December 2005 issue, listed Colin as one of the Top 25 Bold Visionaries. There's some other stuff too that you can find on their website.

When all was said and done, Julie's Atlantic rowing expedition was a bit more than 10,000 km or over 6000 in miles. Colin's epic journey across the planet netted more than 43,000 km or just over 'holy crap that was long' in miles.

In contrast, I, um, did an Ironman last year.

As you can probably tell, despite my best efforts, I am still a little starstruck. I got to be the guide for these 2 adventurers as they tried to navigate the complex halls of an elementary school. How in the world do you take care of 2 people with these credentials? Simple. You wait on them hand and foot and make sure that their water bowl is full. They sort of take care of the rest. It turns out that they were down-to-earth, fun-loving, flexible individuals with a lot to offer.

During my 2-day adventure with Julie and Colin, I got to talk, chat, and make idle conversation. I learned a lot from them outside of their presentations that I will share with you in the next couple of posts. Maybe by then, my school-girl awe of the magnificence called Angus (which could also include the beef) will subside a bit.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

WW- New Helmet Ideas

Non-racing season is in full swing. Symptoms of non-racing season include:
  • Replacing race wheels with stock wheels
  • Busting out the trainer in hopes that I will get Stockholmed soon
  • Re-wiring my TV so that I can ride on the trainer
  • Exercising in significantly more clothes
It's that last one that I really hate. All summer long, I'm pretty much naked. Sure, I put on this extra thin layer of lycra/ cool max material. In most settings, that's not actually called clothing. Now that temps are dropping and the daylight hours are waning, the mass of material stacked upon oneself can hide even the most spectacular holiday gluttony. No wonder people put on weight in the winter time. It's not the food, it's the clothes.

I'm still not really ready to bike full time in the garage. Sure, I can tolerate mid-week spins. On the weekends, I'd still like to hit the pavement. I can layer up from head to toe, except for maybe the noggin.

My helmet is actually labeled 'super-light' due to the number of vents (and the fact that it's not heavy). It blocks exactly zero of the elements. Skull caps help only marginally. Therefore, I might need a new helmet for this transition period. Here are some ideas...

To be seen at night or by your leader
I think the posts help in aero
OK, this might actually have more ventilation
Dubbed "The Neck Saver"
Here's the helmet that -I think- describes me best.

Here's the one that -actually- describes me best.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Time With an Olympian

The opening paragraph reads, "The United States held off Canada to win a second straight Olympic gold in the women's eight Thursday, maintaining its six-year dominance of the high-profile event."

I remember watching the event with my students during summer school. I'm always proud of the US of A when we take home the gold. The Canadians were expected to be strong this summer. But the Americans continued their excellence in women's rowing and took home the gold.

Little did I know that I would end up meeting one of these rowing superstars. Here's that story:

My school does an annual fundraiser, community awareness, 2-day awesome fest. Typically, we find a person or two that has excelled in some sort of adventure and has a story to tell. This year, we featured Julie and Colin Angus. I'll give you much more about them in the very near future. The Cliff's Notes version is that they have done some amazing things in traveling the world via only human power. On their list of accomplishments is long distance rowing excursions (seriously, I'll give you more later).

One of the Olympians pictured above, Meghan Musnicki, lives not far from here. (She is 5th from the left in the picture at the right). See the connections? Our headliners are rowers (among other things). The Olympian is a rower. The school is near here. The Olympian is near here. (Okay, not really. Meghan currently lives elsewhere, but she used to live near here. And her mom is still near here. Meghan likes her mom and is willing to come back and visit). We sent out a request and asked Meghan if she'd like to join us for the big presentation. We were all excited when she accepted and told us she would come.

My responsibility during the whole event was to look after Julie and Colin. We held a reception before the big presentation. Normal to Banter standards, we showed up fashionably late. Why I cannot get to an event on time is quite beyond me. As we (Julie, Colin, and I) were walking in, I briefed them that there was an Olympian coming. They, of course, were already aware of this and excited just the same.

I honestly didn't know what Meghan looked like. I had been busy taking care of other details to look her up. This pic is from her Olympic bio. When we entered  the room, the 3 of us scanned the environment to both get a feel of what we were walking in to and to see if we can spot our hero.

Amongst all of the unknown faces, one woman clearly stood out. "I think that's her," I said quietly to my charges. Not that I have much experience in this area but she certainly looked like an Olympian. For example, she was tall, as in towering over the common man. She looked solidly built, like you'd envision a world class athlete who spends hours and hours pulling wood/ fiberglass through water. Her bulging muscles were evident underneath modestly dressed clothing.

Let's not forget the more subtle details that tipped you off to her Olympian status. These include the official USA Olympics label on her shirt. Oh, and she also happened to be sporting a gold medal around her neck. Plus, she was blonde-a dead giveaway.

Having never met an Olympian before, I mentally put them in the same spot the Greeks put their Gods, up on a pedestal outside the circle of us mortals. When coming face-to-face with a goddess, would you know how to act? I surely didn't. There she was grazing at the hors d'oeurves table, comfortable in her surroundings.

Understand that I was not the only other person in the room that wanted to meet her. Everyone wanted to meet her. I knew that I was going to be busy most of the night, so I was hoping to get my chance early. One problem is that beautiful women intimidate me, a throwback from my middle school/ high school nerd-status that I haven't really overcome (read- I'm still a nerd). I approached slowly. Another problem is that most of the other people in the room do not suffer from hot-chick willies so they were a lot more aggressive than me. By the time I made it towards Meghan, she was already swarmed by a group of oglers, leaving this ogler to admire from afar.

In hindsight, this fact turned out to be advantageous. I started friendly, easy conversation with an equally beautiful, albeit shorter and slightly older, blonde woman. We were watching Meghan's interaction with the crowd. Meghan had obviously prepared herself in advance. She came with Olympic trading cards, which are much like baseball cards but with cooler athletes, and pens to fill out autographs. (Meghan, should you ever read this... How can I get one of those?)

Meghan, despite her best efforts, did not have enough hands to handle everything she wanted to accomplish. In one hand she held her food and pens. In the other hand, she held her medal and trading cards. She needed to lose something. She walked over in my direction and handed me her medal. HER GOLD MEDAL! I had it in my hands. Innocently given to me by an Olympian stranger I had never met before. "She does that all the time," said the beauty standing next to me. I turned and looked at this woman again and for the first time read her name tag. It was Meghan's mom.

So here I am standing and chatting with an Olympic mom, admiring the interaction between the Olympic athlete and her fans, and holding a Gold Medal from the 2012 London Olympic Games. Mind you, I was supposed to be tending to the needs of Julie and Colin, whom I have temporarily forgotten existed in this world. It took me about 2 minutes to realize that I needed to bust out my camera. Here are my shots of the medal itself:

I'm not really sure which side is considered the front and which is the back. I'm also not really sure if it matters. I'd have to guess that it was about 1/2 inch thick. I am very sure that this piece of magnificent artwork is quite heavy. I'd probably put it at 3-4 pounds, making it understandable why Meghan didn't want to keep it around her neck the entire night.

I'm kicking myself for not bringing it up to my science lab (we were in my school and I am a science teacher) to run some measurements and tests. Then again, you don't want to anger an Olympian. There's no doubt in my mind that she could crush me like a grape. Not that she would actually do it. After my interactions with her, I found her incredibly sweet. Regardless, I kept the medal near her.

(Note: you can catch glimpses of Meghan in the background of both of those shots. She has her back to me. That's her green skirt with the chiseled legs. I didn't actually notice her legs at first. Another woman in the reception told me to check them out. I'm pretty sure I lose man-points for: A. Not checking her out, and B. Having to be told to check her out by a woman.)

As you can probably surmise, I wanted to get some evidence that included more than my hands. The iPhone has a front facing lens. Here's one of those shots with me and the medal.

Naturally, since I'm a tool, I showed these pics to pretty much anyone who would look at them. The most common question I received was, "Why didn't you put it on?" The answer to me was simple: Respect. In reverence of the toil, sacrifice, and dedication that it took for Meghan and the other Olympians to earn this piece of gold, I feel that they are the only ones with the right to actually wear it around their necks. I can touch it, grope it, lick it, and hold it, but at no time should I wear it. That honor, at least in my mind, should be reserved for the Olympians and whomever's neck they actually decide to place it around. I was content with just holding it in my hand.

After snapping back to reality, I resumed my regularly scheduled responsibilities. Before handing back the medal to Meghan, I continued to chat with Mom. I knew that I wasn't going to have an opportunity to get my picture taken in the near future. Mom promised me that she would ensure that I got my chance at her daughter. Mom held true to her promise. Here's the photo op that happened a couple of hours later.

I stand 5'10. Meghan is about 5'11, if you believe her bio sheet. She is wearing heels thus increasing her stature. After all of that, she still had the gumption to put her arm around me. I may never wash that shirt again.

Aside: True to form, Meghan let pretty much everyone play with her gold that night. It was quite amazing. She even stayed long after the reception was over to continue to interact with her fans (myself included).

I have read stories of other gold medalists who keep their hardware in safety deposit boxes and even sell them on e-Bay. Not Megan: she respected the Games and the enormous sacrifice it takes to be a champion. Here's a shining example of an awesome person humbly allowing others to touch her goodies. Most of us have never, nor will ever again, have that chance. Meghan is a great example of humility and I, for one, recognize and appreciate the effort it takes for her to make these public appearances. Whereas winning a gold medal is never an easy accomplishment, neither is sharing that accomplishment. Olympians, in reality, are not gods and goddesses. They are regular people who need the support of countless others around them. Meghan certainly knows what the symbol and her status means for the rest of us and was quite willing to share it. In doing so, she gains respect, support, and credibility from many. She touched and inspired countless individuals that night. She continues to represent her country well and I am proud to have met her.

In my opinion, even more amazing was her commitment to those close to her. She refers to her teammates as "The 8", which immediately told me of the bond she has with the other girls on her team. To further illustrate her commitment, a small intimate group was heading out for a drink after the presentation, including Julie and Colin. I invited her out with us. She told me that she hasn't seen her mom in a while. She drove many hours (I think 9) to arrive at Mom's house. She visited for only about 45 minutes before having to leave and see me. Since most of her night was spent with star-struck strangers, she didn't hang out with Mom much. She was honestly looking forward to Mom time. She declined my invitation.

Good stuff Meghan! I have learned quite a bit from you. Good stuff indeed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Trip to the Doctor's

After the fateful trip back from Arizona, it became increasingly clear that something was not right with my throat. Recently, someone on the trip got diagnosed with strep and I'm pretty sure they passed it off to me. As a teacher, and a science guy at that, I felt it necessary not to inoculate the rest of the school with a pesky little bacteria. I, for the first time in over 2 years, made an appointment to see my doctor.

Here's the thing about visiting my doctor anymore, I'm not sure he actually works there. I got to see a physicians assistant, who is not an MD but still on orders of magnitude smarter and more learned than I. As I reflect on the experience, I can understand why people just don't like to go. Here's a breakdown of the events:

-Leave work and commute to doctor's office. Forget the exact location, drive right by, attempt to turn around but get blocked by traffic, finally make it to office. Elapsed time- ~12 minutes

-Enter doctor's office, greet nice woman at counter, check in, and receive a clipboard of stuff to sign. Elapsed time- 2 minutes flat

-Fill out forms and sign. Elapsed time- 38 seconds

-Stand in line to turn in my forms behind a woman who is not a patient but a friend of the nice lady behind the counter. Finally hand in my form. Elapsed time- 4 minutes 09 seconds

-Sit and wait in the aptly named 'waiting room'. There is only one other person in the room. Make awkward conversation and learn that he is also not a patient but waiting to drive home his wife. Finally get called into the inner circle. Elapsed time 3 minutes 22 seconds

-Get weighed in on a digital scale. Kept on shoes, belt, pants, work keys, car keys, wallet and phone (and I still weighed less than my scale at home). Elapsed time- 51 seconds

-Enter room and begin to undress. Look around for robe or gown. None obvious. Open various cabinets and drawers. Still no alternative clothing. Finally come to conclusion that I am getting my throat checked and probably won't turn and cough. Re-don my clothes. PA finally enters room after I am full clothed. Elapsed time- 6 minutes (allotting for some nudity error)

-Explain situation to PA. She takes vitals. BP 118 over 80. Pulse rate= 58 bpm. PA looks quizzically at her watch. Rechecks watch and tests again. Now down to 56 bpm. She asks, "Do you workout?" I assume she's asking because of my incredibly muscular wrist muscles. "They've been like that since just after puberty." "Yes," I respond. She walks over to computer and types in vitals. Elapsed time- 3 minutes 37 seconds

-She leaves room and returns with 2 throat swabs. She apologizes in advance for my discomfort then proceeds to jam them done my throat. It feels like she's trying to swab my lunch. Perceived Elapsed time- 42 hours 17 minutes 4 seconds. Actual Elapsed time- 4 seconds.

-She writes a prescription for antibiotics and sends me on my way. Elapsed time- 1 minute 16 seconds

-I go to the counter to pay. The update all information since I moved. I pay co-pay. I ask for a detailed receipt as I can claim my copay against my Flex Spending Account but only if I have a detailed receipt and not a credit card receipt. She tells me that she'll print one. Apparently the in-office printer is broken and she needs to pick up the copy downstairs. Which means that she needs to go outside, around the building, down the stairs, into another doctor's office and pick up print job. She returns, checks computer, says, "Opps, forgot to press print." Then leaves and returns. Elapsed time- 23 minutes and some change (emotions kept me from accurate time keeping in this instance)

-Drive to local pharmacy. Hand in Rx. Elapsed time- 4 minutes 41 seconds

-Wait for pharmacist to pull box off of shelf, slap on a label, and put medicine in bin. Elapsed time- 18 minutes 24 seconds (they predicted it would take 20 minutes so I guess I should be happy)

-Drive back to my workplace and get ready for the afternoons coaching session. Elapsed time- 8 minutes 58 seconds

I was late to practice. I am still trying to pinpoint why.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

WW- New Versions of SBR

Now that the triathlon race season is officially over, I'm starting to look forward to training and getting ready for next year's season. I know, gross right!? But, that's the life of a dedicated triathlete. There's always next season.

My major problem is that I didn't really succeed at any of this year's goals. I didn't PR at IMLP. I didn't run any sub-20 minute 5ks. I didn't break 5 hours at a HIM (lousy course markings, or lack there of) (I'm still brooding).

Maybe next year, I'll try something different (doubtful). There are alternatives to SBR while keeping the SBR intact.

There are different versions of swimming:

Different versions of Biking:

Different versions of Running:

I'm pretty sure I'll stick with the traditional. Whereas I did not reach my goals this year, I appreciate the challenge. Sport is worth it and it's not easy on purpose.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Running in the Dry

As you may have figured out from a past post, I have recently gotten back from Tucson, Az. It was a fantastic experience on many fronts. First and foremost, it was exactly the same as time travel.

Here in the East Coast/ New England/ Great Lakes region of the world, autumn is firmly upon us. For those of you not from around here, fall brings changing leaf colors, death, unpredictable weather patterns, and falling temperatures. Highs in the 60s are considered pleasant. Overnight lows can dip near frost levels. Snow in October is unlikely but not unheard of. One thing is clear: summer is gone and things are slipping towards the winter abyss.

Now, checking the forecast for southern Arizona, you discover something that resembles the pic on the right. This is what the locals refer to as "unseasonably cool". Upon arriving in the greater Tucson area, the natives have actually donned their long-sleeved garb to combat the frigid high temps. We warm-blooded individuals are quite comfy in our shorts and t-shirts noting that their overnight lows are still higher than our daily highs. In a nutshell, flying to Arizona was exactly the same as traveling back in time to summer.

Having not really done the whole time travel thing in the past, I talked to some experienced season jumpers. They warned me that, despite appearances, there are subtle differences that clue you in to the fact that you are not in your own time.

For example, normally a 90º high would equal something near a 70-90% humidity rating. This type of atmosphere is so thick that you can actually swim through it. More naive people would refer to this act as flying, but that type of anti-gravity stuff is reserved for Superman, the Greatest American Hero, and certain Douglas Adams characters who have mastered the art of not hitting the ground.

In your case, you really are running, only you must actually move your arms and legs to separate the air/ water molecules which allows your body to readily move through. Of course, this takes extra energy on your part. This is part of the reason us Northerners look so ridiculous when running.

Not me, but close
When you are finished, not only have you gotten in a relatively good workout, but you are also significantly soaked in both your own sweat and atmospheric droppings. Every fabric of your existence is soaked. You could not be more saturated should you have actually jumped into one of the lakes that provides the colloidal water suspension. Your shoes are slushy. Your shirt has changed colors. There is a physical stream of liquid draining off of your running shorts. Let's not discuss the smell.

On the contrary, this same effect is not produced in the Southwestern United States. Here's how it went for me:

I awoke at 5:30 am. I piddled around in my hotel room a bit. This equals searching for my running clothes, hydrating, and making tinkle. In the real world, I would be sitting and reading while enjoying a cup of homemade mocha latte. The hotel room did not come equipped with an espresso machine, so I opted to skip the hubub and get started immediately on my run. I left the room by 5:45 am (note: I am not a morning runner.)

The temps outside were already in the mid-70s. I step outside and inhale some crisp, lean air. Something was amiss as the gaseous mixture went in smoothly and I did not feel the need to use a straw.

I started my jog just as the sun was arising. Which is another difference: The sun back home comes up at 6:30-ish. How the sun manages to wake up here a good 45 minutes earlier is beyond me. Anyway, I get to my jog. The plan was to run out for about 1.75 miles, turn around, and come back. I followed the plan to perfection.

Upon returning to the hotel, the air has risen to near 80º.  I went to wring out the bottom of my shirt and shorts, only because I felt the obligation to not drip all over the hotel lobby. Oddly, my shorts were still dry. Not a single drop of liquid after 3 and a half miles. My shirt had a small patch of moisture in the middle of my chest, about the size of a silver dollar. My shoes were silent as the 'squish-squish' sound was completely absent. My hair was in the exact same state as it was 25 minutes ago when I left the building (ragged and ugly, but dry). What happened to all of the sweat? I'm so not used to the rate of evaporation keeping up with the rate of perspiration.

I've never understood the whole "it's not the heat, it's the humidity" thing until now. To compare, I went on a 3.5 mile run after touching down in Western NY. The temps were sub 60º but the humidity was in the upper 70s. I started to sweat after about 6 minutes into the run and the body moisture ended roughly 12 minutes post-stopping. My shirt had a v-shaped sweat pattern that started at my shoulders and pointed towards my happy place. Only the sides of my top were their original hue. My shorts were thoroughly moist. My shoes smelled something terrible- although I'm pretty sure they always reek. (Note to self: Stop putting nose in shoes.)

Maybe it is the humidity after all. That, or time travel does some weird things to the physiology of the runner. This phenomenon needs to be studied more carefully. Now, I need someone willing to pay me to fly all over the place and run. Any takers?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

PITA- Running

Here it is- The last part of the last race report for the 2012 season. So far, the swim has been mediocre, the bike was abysmal with surprising results, and now it was time to run.

I had some gaffes coming off the bike. Could something in the race please go right!? Soon. Please. Here's what happened... I have an above average skill set in mounting and dismounting the bike. For the dismount, I unstrap my proximal velcro keeping the distal securely in place. I back my feet out of the shoes so that my heels are out but the toes are in. This gives me an opportunity to pedal until I arrive at the official dismount line. Next, I pull one foot completely out of the shoe, swing that leg over the bar, and coast with my body side-saddle-style until about 16 inches before the line. I step down with the unshod foot and slip my other foot from its holding cell. I hit the ground running into transition.

All of that actually happened exactly as I described. However, my second foot took the bike shoe with it. I must have rotated my ankle and unclipped. Now, I had one shoe on foot with one shoe on bike. I imagined that feeling was akin to when women break a heel, who for some reason start running. Very unbalanced and awkward.

On the bright side, the presence of the shoe confirmed a sneaking suspicion. I still had feet. It had been a while since I actually felt them. With the pre-race temps in the mid-40s, the water temps in the low 60s, and the chilly air on the bike, I hadn't had a real sensation south of my talus in over 4 hours. I still didn't feel anything now. But the evidence of the shoe clinking against the ground was enough to convince me that I was not walking on stumps.

Transition 2 was significantly faster than T1. Bike in rack. Shoes on those cold things below my ankles. Glasses, gloves, ear warmers off. Go Go Go. I posted the second fastest T2 time on the day.

The run course itself was a 2-lap, cursive T-shaped looking thing. Unlike the bike course, it was well marked (sorry, I just had to jab). We came out of transition and almost did a full lap around the lake. This was kinda nice as you could sometimes hear the announcer and the music out on the run.

The run was deceptively hard. There was only 1 noticeable hill, right around mile 2, which was the same hill around mile 6, then again at mile 8.5 and finally at mile 12 (all distances are approximated). The rest were all hidden. For example, the rolling hills between mile 2.5 to mile 3 (and then again later on) were false flats. I remember checking my Garmin and wondering why I was running such a slow pace compared to my effort (which would have been slow for just about anyone). The hill profile helped solve that issue later on.

The PITA run course was sparsely littered with some of the greatest volunteers. Normally when I do long stuff, there are lines of volunteers waiting on your every whim. In contrast, each aid station on race day was typically stocked with 1 adult and 2 children (mostly 10-year-old girls, IIRC). Obviously, the kids were doing all of the work while the adult was yelling at the kids to do all the work (most adults, in my experience, are super lazy in the presence of children). They had a system and I wasn't going to intervene. I dubbed a volunteer at each station "Water Girl." My reason for this was 3-fold: 1) I carry all of my gels and therefore only need water on the run course. 2) It is helpful to the volunteers when you communicate clearly your needs. 3) They were girls; 'Water Boy' would have been insulting.  Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of the Water Girls who took care of me during my run. Thank you very much.

There was another volunteer on the course that I'd like to thank as well. He was positioned near the 3.5 mile mark. This was the turn-around at the top, right end of the lake. He was playing his banjo, singing and having a jolly good old time doing so. 
Dear Sir,
I love you (ya know, in a platonic way). Just the simple fact that you came out to support our race shows how amazing of a man you are and the high quality of your character. I would also like to commend you on your musical talent for both the voice and the banjo.  Having said that, please don't take this the wrong way. Whereas your version of, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was well played, having that particular song in my head for the next 7 miles was more than a bit annoying. If you had been banjo-ing out something more inspiring, such as "Hells Bells" by AC/DC (which I'm certain sounds awesome on the banjo), I may have had a faster run time. I am not blaming you for anything, simply making a musical request for something a little more masculine than a Judy Garland tune. The Beatles tune, "A Day in the Life" was a step in the right direction on lap 2. Again, thank you for your service.

With the make up of the course, it was easy to see my fellow competition. I needed to pass 5 people without getting passed myself. It was clear that I wasn't going to pass anyone on my first lap. I made it back near the transition area and headed out for a second round of Pain. By now, the sun was shining and things were starting to heat up to the upper-50s.

By mile 9, I might have actually been sweating. I was racing to 5th place but still had not made up ground on too many people. I passed one dude and was sitting firmly in 9th place. Then, it was clear that some bloke in a green kit had dropped out, or started walking, or was hanging out with the Water Girls. The point was that I just didn't see him anymore.

I was holding a pretty-good-for-me pace the entire way. The second lap featured a lot more PITA-thletes as more and more finished their bike leg and had entered the run course. I was able to spot, reel, and pass. This kept me motivated. I was ready to experience the normal cramping, bloating, pansy-type symptoms that plague me on most of my distance races. None came.

It was apparent, however, that I was running out of steam late in the race. Each successive mile was getting slower. Mile 10 was a 7:55. Mile 11 was an 8:00. Mile 12 was an 8:10. Mile 13 was down to 8:24. I stole competitor number 7's spot in the line-up in the 13th mile. He was hurting more than me.

I ended the race in 7th place. Ironically, I posted the 7th fastest run time. Had I not taken that 5-mile jaunt to nowhere at the beginning of the bike leg, I would have taken 5th (assuming all else equal).

For my efforts, I did manage to win my age group. Like I said, I took home a prize. The RDs decided to add just one more twist to the PITA. They gave out bricks as trophies. That was just the thing I wanted to carry back to my car after a long day of racing. And, should I win my AG in about 300 more races, I might have enough for a full patio.

Friday, October 5, 2012

PITA- Biking

At this stage in Banter history, I'm dead smack in the middle of a half-Iron distance triathlon called the Pain in the Alleghenies, belovedly know as the PITA. Thus far, I have dropped enough fertilizer to cover half the state of Iowa, swam through a forest of clumpy things that I hope were weeds, stubbed my toe on some shallow water rocks, and submerged myself in some muck. All in all, it's been a rather enjoyable, if not chilly, morning.

I came out of the water just behind Mike. Normally, I would have let a fellow competitor run his way into transition all by his lonesome. I'm not that quick in changing from swimming to running and I completely suck at removing my wetsuit. Most of the time, I'll stop in or near the water to disrobe. Not today. It was cold outside and I wanted to keep my neoprene jacket on as long as I could.

Luckily, Mike wasn't in a hurry either. We were both in the front row of the bike rack, his was just further down the alley. Watching us compete through transition would have been akin to watching a foot race between two slugs. I am proud to report that this slug won that race by a good 10 seconds (Aside: This should not be taken as a brag- it was a pretty horrible T1 time. At least I was warm. Except for my feet, which I couldn't feel anyway. End Aside.)

Heading out onto the bike, I was ready. Until about 1/3 of a mile later when I met this lady on her bike (Mike was right behind me). She was at an intersection and yelling out, "Do you guys know which way to go?" Honestly, I didn't. I had looked at the map. But, the road in real life looks much different than the little blue line, especially when you arrive on site before sunrise. She yells again, "I went both ways and saw nothing."

It was Banter-decision-making time, which is never really a good time. I turned right. True to the report, there was nothing. Not a marker, cone, sign, nor dead deer (whereas I'm not sure exactly how that last one would have helped me, I can attest that there was indeed no carcass).

Roughly a 1/2 mile down the road I hit pay dirt. I found a volunteer. And a cop. And a cone. (Still no meat.) Both the cop and volunteer pointed to turn down the bike path, a left hand turn. I do remember a left hand turn on the map. I'm on my way.

I followed the path for a short distance. It was a beautiful ride through the middle of a forest. Even better, none of the real cyclists were catching me just yet. I powered on thinking that I was going to get passed anytime soon, as is the norm for my races. The bike path ended onto a road. Since there was no sign or person stating otherwise, I kept the same general bearing. At one point, I risked a look back over my shoulder as I was certain someone was coming soon. Nothing. No one in front. No one behind. This was my first ping that things were not as they should be (which should have happened roughly 1.5 miles back).

I soon received my second, extra-loud ping: my road was coming to an end as it merged onto Route 86. Now, I don't claim to be an expert in, well, anything but I'm pretty darn sure that they don't allow triathlons to compete on the interstate. I turned around and headed back.

I finally made it back to where the volunteer and cop were stationed. I stopped and chatted with a different officer, "Do you happen to have a map?" Nope. But, he did admit that someone, his words now, "F____ed up." (Yup, me.) He told me that they had someone out there directing traffic now and there were many people who went askew on the ride. I should just head back and they'll point me in the right direction.

I was livid. I wanted revenge. I was ready to go on the war path. I was going to settle for nothing less than any of the following options:
  • Refunded entry fee
  • Free entry to next year's race
  • My extra time biking to Jamestown, PA removed from my overall time
  • The RD's first born child
I finally made it back to the real bike course and my Garmin said it was just over 20 minutes and just over 5 miles. (The map at the right, starting from the lake to the "Red House" was unique to only my route.) Having reached this spot after about 2 minutes into the race, simple math told me that I was only 18 minutes out of the way. I was darn near ready to call it a day as I knew the RD would never grant me his first born.

Ya wanna know what kept me in the race? (Hint: it wasn't the pleasant day and warm temperatures.) It was the drive. I didn't want to get back in the car and drive the near 3 hours back home having done less than 1 hour of racing. I now understand my 2 hour rule more clearly. I want my race to be longer than my one-way commute. Glad I nailed that down. Now, it was time to ride.

I had looked at the elevation profile many times in the past month. It does not do the ride justice. What you see (assuming you ignore the first 5 miles), but do not feel, is a 6 mile winding climb for the part of the bike. Then a 6 mile downhill. Then a brief, semi-flat (compared to the rest of the ride) out-and-back. Then an 8-mile climb. Succeeded by an 8-mile descent. And, just when you are starting to feel good about yourself, you have to start all over. When finished, you'll have climbed for 3800 feet.

I got to pass many, many people (including Mike). By the time I made it to the second loop, I noticed a couple of things. 1) There was indeed someone out there directing traffic to ensure losers hit the course correctly. 2) Fellow competitors were few and far between. 3) Biking in the rain and then the sun and then the rain and then the sun and then the rain and then the sun isn't that great when the temps have climbed only into the low 50s. It was the second fact disturbed me a little bit. Since I was late getting to the climb, I had no idea where I stood in this race. I assumed that the top athletes were almost done.

Shortly after starting the last climb, some woman in a car came by in the opposite. She announced that I was in 12th place. I had a hard time believing this intel. How could I have risen this far in the ranks? I remained skeptical. Not far off on the hill were 2 other cyclists (one of these people was the lady who started my ride before I went off in the wrong direction). I eventually passed them and deluded myself into thinking I was in 10th place.

Sure enough, I posted the 12th fastest bike time, even with the bonehead time penalty. According to the race results, I hopped off the bike in 10th place. I choose not to be too excited about my position. I had just biked 61 miles compared to the field's 56. I am not that good of a runner and have blown up several times over the course of 13.1 miles.

But, there was a carrot hanging out in front of me. I knew that the sponsors of the PITA had put up some really great prizes.
1st= Disc wheel.
2nd= New Wetsuit (hopefully one that could come off over your ankles).
3rd= Aero Helmet.
4th= Zoot triathlon shoes.
5th= Fuel belt.
6th-Infinity= Finishers medal and possibly age group award. 
If I were to get a good prize, I had to net pass 5 people. I did come home with a prize. I'll tell you what in the very near future.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WW- On Unnecessary Signs

I just got back from a busy, yet rewarding, trip to Arizona. Busy meaning that I got relatively little sleep. Rewarding in that I now have a sore throat and suspect I may have strep.

I was hanging out in Tucson, near the U of A (go Wildcats!) and would wake up an extra 30 minutes earlier than the rest of the clan to go running. The runs weren't anything special nor anything long. They were just enough to get the blood flowing and wake up the mind. I failed on both accounts but at least I got in some exercise.

Tuscon has this great running path that borders the Santa Cruz River Wash. For those of you who don't know about a Wash (I got disciplined by the locals for my ignorance), it is NOT a dead, dried up river despite its appearance. Apparently there is water during the rainy season, which, to my understanding, happens between April 1st and April 3rd. I stood corrected and apologized for wondering why they also didn't build a dam to keep the rocks in place.

One of the great aspects of this path was that they didn't force you into automobile traffic at intersections. In many places you could run under the road. However, at each underpass, they conveniently posted a sign that stated "Do not enter when flooded."

I laughed at the idiocy of the sign. Seriously, do people not already know this? Are there people who would look at the flood waters and go, "Hmm, I think I can make it,"? Sadly, I bet that sign was posted after an event happened. Some people just couldn't figure it out on their own. Naturally the government's only recourse was to post a sign. (As opposed to the highly unpopular policy of adding candidates to the annual Darwin Awards.)

Then I got to thinking, what are some other signs that are out there and shouldn't be necessary? (Ya know, because what else is there to do when running at excruciating slow paces in unfamiliar territory than think about the idiocy of others?) Of course, I asked my good friend Google for some help. There were a bunch. So I narrowed my search to water related incidences. Here's what we came up with:

As a triathlete, I probably would have swum for it.

Too bad they didn't post a reason why.

Stuff they don't teach you in science class.

Good thing they warned us.
This was all in good humor until I came across this sign, made especially for an idiot.