Thursday, November 29, 2012

WW- Side Effects of Illness

I am beat. Everything is moving slower than normal. I did some tallying of the last week's events to try and pinpoint the reason. Here's the results from Thanksgiving week:
  • 1700 miles driven
  • 4 days with friends and family
  • 4 pounds of additional calories
  • Despite having run 19.8 miles during those 4 days
  • 1 slab of ribs brought back home
  • 5 days in a row of an unpleasant viral infection
This cold is really beating me up. It started with a tickle of a sore throat that got a little worse. The tickle became a hot spot. A hot spot became a furnace. Soon, it got to the point where I thought I could heat the entire house just by breathing. (Which, when you think about it, is kinda convenient since it's winter and I'm having furnace problems). Sadly, a quick check of the thermostat proved that I wasn't changing the enthalpy of the room by a significant amount.

The throat thing has finally changed in elevation and embedded itself firmly into my sinuses. Last night, I tried to go to bed early. As I laid there in my misery, I swore I could actually feel my medulla fire a nerve to my heart, then feel my heart beat in response, then feel my pulse rise and fall like the tide through my body at 58 times per minute (okay, so I was bored and got out my watch to time the process).

Now, I'm not one to let something like a head cold slow me down. Luckily, I'm not that fast anyway so you'd be hard pressed to notice a change in pace. Regardless of how I felt, that extra 4 pounds of delicious meat sitting firmly under my belly button is an ever present demon in need of an exORcising. Since those cost money, I decided on the traditional exERcising. I went running and it didn't go as well as I had hoped. Granted, I could have been delirious, but I'm pretty sure my Mizuno's transformed into these.

Here's where my multisport background is actually advantageous. I don't need to just run to workout. I have lots of other options and they're all legit when it comes to improving my fitness towards my goals (not that I have any at this time).

Instead of running, I could go for a bike ride. Granted, the weather is a little cooler than I prefer but I wasn't going to let that fact get in my way of a good ride. I hopped on my steed and readied myself for a jaunt through the country. Now, I don't remember my pedals being that hard to turn. I got off and checked the tire pressure because low air can cause increased rolling resistance. Nope. It's possible that my carbon fiber frame put on some sympathy weight during the holiday because this is how my bike felt.

Needless to say, I didn't get very far on that set-up. There is still one more weapon in the triathlete's utility belt. I normally don't swim in the winter time. I have a swimming strength as it pertains to the sport of triathlon. I can attempt to focus my winter training regimen on my weaknesses (meaning every other aspect of the race) and not be concerned about the water leg. Plus, I was pretty sure that dressing in speedos would eliminate the brick-like feeling.

I'm not sure what hallucinogen they replaced the chlorine with but it worked wonders on my senses. Sure, I didn't get in a good workout but I did see the world in nice blocks. Even the old people in the pool looked as fit and trim as me. In violation of most public pool rules, I brought my camera and asked the lifeguard to take a picture of a group set. Here we are:

P.S. You can actually watch Lego Phelps win gold here.

Editor's Note: I started typing this message on Tuesday of this week. It's not that wordy and I still missed my deadline. It's possibly because my keyboard now looks like this.

Hopefully I'll get better soon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Proof Against Running Hills

I, like many others, recently participated in a glutton-fest commonly called Thanksgiving. I, possibly unwisely, decided that Turkey Day morn was the perfect time to do my long run. I wanted to empty the tank before I tipped the scales.

This recent week of running offered up a rare opportunity in course comparison. On Saturday of last week, I did a 9+ mile run in the confines of my local stomping grounds. Five days later, I repeated the process, only this time on my old stomping grounds.

One aspect of my training, not that I have anything to train for, is pacing on my long runs. I have a history of doing my mileage outside of my means, leaving me as spent and useless as a drooling vegetable. Most people don't notice the difference between this state and my normal state of being. But I know (and isn't that really all that matters?).

Anyway, back to the point of this post: comparing runs. Since I am a science teacher, I know everything a little bit about the geologic history of my neighborhoods. Currently, I live in upstate NY which has been glaciated by at least 2 major movements. My former home of NW Indiana has only been pummeled once and the ice didn't go that far. Now, if you think that scouring the Earth with miles high mounds of hardened water would have a flattening effect, you'd be wrong. Glaciers provide more contours than they eliminate. Untouched icescapes leave no deposits.

Translation: Indiana is flat.

Big deal. What the hill giveth on the way up the hill returneth on the way down. It all balances out in the end. Or so I thought. Then I gathered the proof.

Run 1: Upstate NY
This run takes place between 0.5 and 3 miles south of Great Lake Ontario. The temperature was balancing in the mid 50s. I set out to run at an 8:30 pace. I tend to suck at pacing and, contrary to expectations, ended up at 8:27 per mile. The hill profile below features 367 feet of elevation gain. Yet, according to Garmin, only 351 feet of loss even though I started and ended at the same place.

Run 2: NW Indiana

This run takes place between 5 and 6 miles south of Great Lake Michigan (which, in my opinion, is infinitely more fun of a Great Lake). The temperature was in the mid 50s. I set out to run at an 8:30 pace. Having recently succeeding at this objective a week ago, I remembered the feeling and intensity. I sought to maintain that level of perceived exertion. I, as per expectations (finally), failed miserably and held a 8:16 including an extra 0.5 miles in the run. The hill profile below shows an elevation gain of a whopping 83 feet. Enigmatically, Garmin shows a loss of 69 feet. See problem statement above.


Not running hills makes you faster. When you compare the 2 runs, the hillier run was significantly slower despite a shorter distance. Under similar times of day, similar weather conditions, and similar levels of pansy, the flatter run triumphed.

Therefore, don't believe the articles citing that you should do hill repeats. Running hills will not make you faster. In fact, the hills will slow you down. Avoid them at all costs. Find the flattest parcel of land and run on that. Your Garmin will thank you.

(P.S. That conclusion only applies to non-Banter coached athletes. My peeps will definitely be hitting the hills. But, since most of you are all local, you probably can't escape it anyway.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

WW- Getting Hot

I swear most of the details of this story are true. Sure, there are some minor embellishments, but that sort of thing is excusable on a blog like this.

As you may know, we (meaning the Wife and I) moved into a new home earlier this year. (Aside: The old home is still available for purchase, should anyone with extra cash sitting around and willing to help out a struggling blogger. End Aside.)

With any new experience, there is a learning curve that goes along with the new dwelling. For example, we lose a ton of heat through the lack of insulation in the walls and attic. We are working on resolving that problem. Until then, our furnace is working to make up for the difference.

Speaking of new experiences and furnaces, our current heating fuel of obligated choice is oil. Oil furnaces are dirty, smelly contraptions. We are not really excited about the future of the world's oil reserves and therefore have purchased a nice, new, high efficiency natural gas burner. It gets installed next week Wednesday.

I think the old furnace is a little bit grumpy that it will soon be retired. On Monday of this week, it stopped working. This might have been the reason.

Okay, that's not my furnace, but only what I was expecting to see when I wove my way through the spider webs in my crawl space (another new adventure). As it turns out, there was absolutely no gunk in the tank. Which was, of course, the root of the problem. We were out of oil.

We contacted the local oil company that delivers sludge to our tank. The conundrum: We only need about 6 total gallons. Like 46 million others, we are traveling for Turkey (the poultry is better 550 miles away from my current home and tastes extra scrumptious after a nice long drive). Heat is not needed for most of the week. In fact, it's only needed for Sunday- Tuesday of next week. Then, the glorious new carbon dioxide producer will provide us with a nice tankless heating system that we don't need to fill.

Can you believe that the oil company would not sell us 6 gallons? Nooooooo, they needed to sell us 50 gallons. It's apparently not worth their time to pay a driver to deliver such meager portions. As the Wife was on the phone negotiating oil deliveries, I got on the internet and started researching alternative sources of heat for the next few days. I just learned that it's a bad idea to run your oven with the door open for extended periods of time. Who knew?

Since the Wife refused to allow me to drive one of the vehicles into the house and run the defrost on hi, I found a work around.

She didn't go for that idea either. I did find a solution that involved hooking my bike up to a steam-powered generator. The steam was created by pedal power. We were a little concerned about added stank (provided by me of course), which was one of the reasons we wanted a new furnace in the first place.

I do still have my old lawnmower from the other house. It produces an ungodly amount of heat as evidenced everytime a touch the device. I could harness that energy with the following set-up. We were actually considering this option until the Wife noticed that the dogs were scared to go into the living room.

In the end, we bought the oil. It's quite toasty in the house right now and our feelings of conservation are drastically reduced with the prospect of a new furnace next week.

By the way, if anyone is searching for any good deals for Christmas gifts, I will soon be selling about 44 gallons of furnace oil. Let me know if you are interested.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Zen of Running

I had a conversation with a friend, recently, about running. Or more specifically, his lack of running. People often mistake me as a runner and I do my best not to correct them. In their eyes, I probably am a runner and it would be hard to explain the differences between what I do and what runners do. A big part of that problem is that I go running.

And I like it.

Which is the most challenging concept to explain to a non-runner from a semi-runner. How do I like running? What is it about running that makes you get up most days a just run?

Here's the thing about going for a run and enjoying it: It's not about the running. Or the exercise.

I think that running is a throw back to the original freedom. Before there were cars, there was running. Before there were bicycles, there was running. Running was the only real chance you had to 'run away' (think about the roots of that phrase and how we use it in today's life) from whatever it is that you need to get away. The freedom is so real you can taste it.

What I think most people miss out upon, including my non-runner friend, is the beauty of the land that is placed before you. The trees swaying in the wind. The grass landscaping my neighbors homes that gives them much pride. The squirrels going about their daily business of survival, bouncing to and fro. The birds soaring and playing in the breeze. The clouds gliding through the sky. The joy of my dog as he canters beside me without a care in the world. This is what I see when I run.

The wind blowing through the forest. The rustling of the leaves as they tumble across the field. The buzz of the insects as they practice their trade. The chirp of the crickets and the frogs as they search for their mates. The hum of the cars as they make their way on their daily business. The gurgle of the stream as it meanders towards its destination. This is what I hear when I run.

The pollen wafting through the air from the flowers readying new life. The slight woody smoke tingling the background as the people heat their homes. The fresh, humid scent of the lake as the air flows over its surface. The musk of my perspiration as I pound the pavement. The pleasant aroma of newly trimmed lawns. This is what I smell when I run.

The rumble of my muscles as they contract and relax through the movement. The warmth of the sun as I voyage across her illumination. The embrace of the wind as she wraps her arms around me. The kiss of the rain as it returns life giving water to the world. The sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that, on multiple levels, I am a better person when I am finished than I was before I started. This is what I feel when I run.

Those are the reasons I run. And will continue to do so until that privilege is taken away from me.

So, tell me, what gets you moving?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

WW- Homework Issues

It's report card time. Millions of students have been diligently working towards a small sheet of paper sent home in the mail which will determine their:
  • Allowance
  • Additional levels of chores
  • Amount of time to read semi-entertaining blogs
  • Right to borrow dad's car
It is a completely different experience on this side of the grading system. First and foremost, I actually have to grade papers. This is something in which I do not excel. I'm pretty good at handing out homework. I'm not so good at giving it back. I guess showing up to races isn't all that I procrastinate with. But, just like in triathlon, I get the job done.

Perhaps if the students did high quality work, I'd be more motivated to look at their papers. Perhaps if the students did stellar assignments, my desire to pick up and decipher their handwriting would be enhanced. Or, maybe if they got a little creative, like the assignments below, I'd be happy to pull out my red pen. Maybe indeed.

2 correct answers

The science guy in me is rolling

How does the teacher know that?

Can't say it's wrong

I disagree. Right beer law

Here's some gender biased selections:

Ah, the proof
Must be from the south

When I draw it, it looks like a clown

For the athletes:
Clearly a non-runner triathlete

Teacher clearly not a triathlete

More can be found here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Veterans Day

There's this guy whose a friend of the family. I've known him all of my life. And, like most friends of the family, I actually KNOW very little about him. Here's some facts, at least what I think are facts:
-He's in the Army
-He's been in the Army ever since I was little
-He's been to bad places many times over
-He doesn't have to still be in the Army, he chooses to stay
-He may have graduated to a rank beyond private
I get a daily email message from him. This is to say that I'm on his jokes email list, meaning none of the messages are actually to me. One or two of his submissions have made the blog.

Here's an example of one of his joke pictures that have not yet worked its way into submission. The subject line of this message was, "So, you think you're having a bad day?"

Cringe Worthy

Anyway, this morning I received this completely unfunny message that I thought was worth sharing:

To all my friends,

If you like your freedom thank a Veteran.

Veterans Day, United States holiday honoring armed service veterans, observed on November 11th. It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.)

Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

And you know what, he's right. I certainly don't do enough to thank those countless people that do important yet thankless jobs. I drive my car, browse the net, and live in the relative comfort that they have provided for me. 

So, to my friend, Thank You!

To all of those who choose to serve for our country, Thank You!

And, just so all of you bacon cheeseburger lovers know what you are getting, I'll leave you with another of his submissions.
Secret to a good bacon cheeseburger

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WW- New Bike Ideas

It's crappy-riding season. You can recognize this season by certain characteristics:
  • Dropping temperatures
  • Sunset before quitting time
  • Higher chance of precipitation
  • Extra-pansy-like tendencies
  • More clothing for previously naked mundane activities
During this time, there's only a few ways to handle this season and still bike, respectively.
  1. Put on more clothing and brave the elements.
  2. Buy highly reflective materials and items measured in lumens
  3. Apply wet lube to all moving parts of the bike
  4. No real way to get around this.
  5. Pretty much the same as #1
There are other options. Granted, they won't make you a better athlete, but they will give you something previously unexpected- self satisfaction. You can find 2nd uses for your bike that don't include pounding out the miles indoors.

You could turn your bike into a tail-gate party on wheels.

You could improve your personal hygiene.

You could use your bike to start a party.

You could use your bike to help the local wildlife.

Or, you could use your ride to honor the memory of lost love-ones.

What are some other ideas that you could possibly use your bike for, ya know, other than riding?

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Man Without A Plan

All the experts agree, (including me, not that I'm an expert in, well, anything)(okay, maybe not all of the experts but at least a good couple of them)(and some people who are pseudo-experts)(also, some idiots too), that there's a difference between working out and training. Working out is synonymous to exercising. Training is exercising with the intent to meet a certain goal. I have started training for the 2013 season.
Races highlighted in red

Or have I?

See, here's the problem: I got nothing. In a normal year, I would already have signed up for an Ironman, a half-Ironman, several Olympic distance races, a duathlon, and a running race or 2. Currently on the schedule, there is zip, zilcho, nada, rien, null, and the empty set when it comes to races. My calendar is very similar to the stare my students give me when I start talking science- blank.

Which begs the question... What have I been doing these past few weeks?

I have been averaging about 8 hours of training for 3 weeks now. This includes swimming, biking, and running. Okay, I haven't actually done any swimming per se. I won't really get in the water for swim training until about March. Maybe April. Probably May. Definitely by June. I admit that I've gone to the pool a couple of times in the past couple of weeks for no real reason other than to accompany the Wife. (I'm a sucker for skin.)

The bike trainer is set up in the unheated, uninsulated garage. I am out there 4-5 times per week at roughly 1 hour per ride, sometimes more but rarely less. I wear long sleeves and my feet get uncomfortably cold from unseasonable cool temps. I can't wait for what the middle of winter will bring (sarcasm implied). I hope that, later on the front edge of spring, I can get off of the rollers and onto the open road. Until then, it's Netflix up the wazoo and I am thankful that they have expanded their streaming library.

I've been waking up every morning at 5:20. I get out of bed, enjoy my daily cup of luscious, chocolaty happiness. Then, I hit the familiar yet very dark pavement. I wear my reflective gear and I bring the PRP. At least he's happy about the added mileage. If I'm lucky, the sun will peak out near the end of my jaunt. I do this about 5 times per week with the intent to bump that up to 6.

I've got all of the normal aspects of training. I've got intensity. I've got tempo. I've got intervals. I've got long days. I've got recovery days. It looks like training. It feels like training. It smells like training (at least my laundry does anyway).

So, what exactly am I training for? I honestly have no idea. Sure, I'd like to get faster but I'm not sure as to the distance. Sure, like to have more power on the bike but I don't know for how long.

What I'd really like to do is to stop kidding myself. I'm working out. I have no goals. I have no races. I have no focus. I'm a little lost. I've got some ideas but until I make the commitment, they will stay in the realm of ideas.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ask the Banter- Noisy Running

One of my work colleagues is a recent runner convert. I have known her for about a decade now and appreciate her wit and intelligence.

Lately, I have noticed a change in her demeanor and her, um, form. She has clearly been working out. Not only has she started running but she has also competed in several of those adventure mud run thingies.  Her efforts have not been wasted.

She came to me with a question.

Dear Banter,

My husband tells me that I make a lot of noise while running. We think that I need to work on my running technique. He says that I'm smacking my feet when I run and that's not good. Is there anything that you can do to help me run quieter and improve my technique?
There's a lot going on in this message. First, I want to tell you that she is Deaf. This fact has absolutely nothing to do with her running status but everything to do with a sensitivity to noise. Especially when her non-running husband, who is not Deaf, tells her that she's making too much noise. How can she argue with that?

Second, because she is not a native runner and neither is her husband, they are suggesting that there's a problem in her running technique. Their evidence? Loud running.

Now, I'm gonna let you in on a secret that the coaches and the shoe companies don't want you to know. Should this secret get out, their businesses could be ruined (or at least marginally impacted).


There is no such thing as perfect running technique. At least, not in the traditional sense.

A lot of this nonsense got started when the sports scientist experts started analyzing the movements of the best runners on the planet. They were hoping to find the aspects that they all had in common. Or, at least most of them had in common anyway. Here's a short list of what they found:
Suddenly all of the athletic-based magazines started citing these studies and developing workouts to make you more like the pros. They have drills. And videos. And fixes. Basically, they tell you that you and your current running form are a disgrace and they want to help fix you. (Not once did they focus on noise.)

The magazines failed because, sorry, you are not a pro. Chances are that you are not even close to pro level. Most pros don't work on their form. At least, not in the traditional sense. Also, the pros were tested in race-ready conditions. They had trained for years before this experiment and they were running at top speeds. On the contrary, you and I are comparative slugs only run a margin of their speed and distance. There's absolutely no way we could mimic their conditions. What to do?

Here's the thing- your brain is really smart. In fact, it's smarter than you. It has multitasking capabilities that put the latest Apple product to shame. Your brain senses the environment at a split second rate and makes minor changes to how you land, lean, breathe, and virtually everything else while still giving you the opportunity to ogle the hottie.

Translation: your brain has a pretty good idea as to what the best running form is for you even if you have no clue. The best running form being the one that keeps you moving without injury. And, what works for you may not work for me.

If you really want to work on your running technique, there's only one sure fire way to do this: Run more. Pay attention here, I'm not advocating making vast changes to your routine in any way. I think that the 10% rule is pretty good. I.E. Only increase your weekly mileage by, at most, 10% more than last week's (the 5% rule might even be better). Breaking up your mileage over 6 days a week is better than running 3 days per week at the same total distance. You don't need to consciously change your technique. It happens automatically.

The more you run, the more your super brain has a chance to read and pay attention to your form. It will make the necessary changes for you, leaving you with ample opportunity to ogle the hottie (you do like your hotties). Even better, it will make those changes slowly over time. Slowly over time reduces your chances for injury and increases your ability to continue running. Which will lead to more running. Which will lead to better technique. And the cycle continues. You will naturally develop a technique that matches your anatomy and running habits.

Here are some direct running related Q&As:
  • Should you focus on run technique? No. Just run
  • Should you run more than you are running now? Probably.
  • Should you work on your running cadence? Probably not.
  • Should you work on foot striking? Doubtful.
  • Should you run faster? Only if you want to run faster.
  • Should you continue to read this blog? Religiously.
  • Will losing weight help you to be a better runner? Most likely.
  • Will lifting weights help you to be a better runner? Most likely not.
  • Should you lift weights anyway? There are non-running benefits to weight training. Up to you.
  • What should you do about your husband when he tells you that you are running too loud? Get a new husband. Or buy him a set of these.
Now, go run.