Wednesday, December 26, 2012

WW- Post Christmas Gifts

Yesterday was Christmas (just in case you didn't know). The Wife and I have the most amazing Christmas morning tradition... We sleep in. After we are well rested, we get up, appreciate our morning beverages, and exchange gifts wrapped in their original store plastic bags.

Here's what I was hoping for:
Here's what I got:
The extended family did come through with some tri-related stuff (thanks BIL, MIL, and FIL!). Now, I know that there are several readers out there with a big heart and a desire to thank me and my semi-entertaining blog. Should you be in the mood, you can look at the short list above. Or you can choose from the options below, which feature some of Amazon's most expensive items.

If you remember, the Pain Cave for working out is a little bleak. This $25,000 TV is sure to brighten things up.

Now that I live in a new house, I'd like to start preparing for the future. As you know, the energy needs of our country is highly dependent on oil. Non-renewable oil. If I'm gonna own that fancy TV from above, I need a back-up plan to ensure it stays running.

As an endurance athlete, high attention to nutrition is a requirement. While the rest of the world is cutting carbs, I am starting to up my training and my energy. In a nutshell, I need pasta. I would very much like it if I didn't have to rely on Barilla for my angel hair. For only $380 g's and an output of 750 pounds of spaghetti an hour, this device would actually make money.

I currently am an iPhone owner (mostly as a consequence of the Wife). If I weren't, I might own a competitor's SmartPhone. Perhaps Samsung. And then, I'd need accessories. I'm pretty sure that, for just over $9 mil, I'll need only one.

And, just in case I need some extra memory, I can purchase these.

But, truth be told, I could really just go for the Power Meter or Race Entries. In the end, it's your money. I won't tell you what to get for me.

Monday, December 24, 2012

North Pole's Triathlon Delivery System

I'm pretty sure Mrs. Claus was a triathlete, despite the obvious liability that she is more than likely a fairy tale character. A little known fact: The original purpose of the North Pole's toy factory was an attempt to produce triathlon related gear, apparel and nutrition (what triathletes tend to refer to as 'toys') and a state of the art training facility.

History has a way of obscuring the details, so allow me to enlighten you... Layla Mary was nutrition major and an all-star Canadian runner in college. She had her heart set on making the National Team in triathlon. Living in the Great White North was a big problem for many triathletes back in the day. Layla was no different. She loved the opportunity to train outside in the summer so she could make her annual trip to Penticton. At that time, TriCan didn't have a lot of resources nor sponsorships for up-and-comers.

Originally for the front
Layla was an amiable young lass and refused to give up on her ambitions. To bolster her training and make some money, she rented out a large warehouse used for research and development. One of her early ideas was a large bag in which an endurance athlete could hold fluid and nutrition. She developed a bladder that could be strapped across the chest. She made her boyfriend turned husband, Kris, test out the idea. When full, it gave Kris a fat-man, jovial appearance. Layla attempted to sell her product to CamelBak. They, of course, weren't interested. When they tested the product, the test subjects complained that it wiggled too much like a bowl full of jelly and gave them a sensation of jostling. CamelBak moved the bladder to the rear. This move negated the patent on the original model and sent Layla back to the drawing board to make money.

Layla decided to turn modify the warehouse from research and development to manufacturing. One of the her ideas was to install a large production line. There was a large belt installed on the floor of the North Pole Triathlon, Unlimited. During the day, the shop would receive orders from various other Canadian companies, such as Cervelo. Another little know fact, the 'P' in Cervelo's tri-bike line stands for "Pole", in honor of where the bike was produced. The P5, shown on the left, was made on the North Pole's 5th manufacturing line.

Athletes who worked the line during the day were granted free use of the training facilities at night. At the end of the shift, the manufacturing lines were cleaned of all debris. The heavy duty belt served as a moving running track. Layla took advantage of the number of workers and to try and develop new nutrition ideas. This was, of course, before Mendeleev had shown the importance of nutrition needs in food. Layla knew that adequate workout recovery was a key to her factory's success. Layla couldn't have her workers all tuckered from working out because they would be useless for tomorrow's shift. Her original concoctions were a mixture of starches and simple sugars. When given food coloring and cut into cutsie shapes, everyone thought they were cookies. Her staff gobbled them up without knowing that these free treats were really a guise to ensure tomorrow's production quota was met.

The biggest problem in the factory was that Kris was not a triathlete and did not enjoy exercising. He was an intellect and a people person. He still reaped the benefits of Layla's 'cookies' with the expected weight gain from too many calories in and not enough calories out. Layla tried to force him on to the belt with the other workers. But, at Kris's weight and girth, he was embarrassed to exercise in public. This lead Layla to invent the world's first working, individual stationary running system. Kris still didn't like the machine and only used it sporadically.

Kris was a biologist. During the day, he was researching the history and technique of animal domestication. He was trying to solve the problem as to why no new animals have been domesticated in the past 2000 years. His initial hypothesis was that humans have become lazy. To test his idea, he set to work on taking the wild out of some of the local fauna. Since this was upper Canada, reindeer were constantly in high stock.

Kris wanted to use the deer and tie them up to sleds as a means of transportation. Remember, this was years before automobiles were invented. (Aside: Rumor has it that Henry Ford came across Layla's North Pole warehouse, was inspired, and mimicked the concept in car production. End Aside.) Kris absolutely refused to run or bike, despite Layla's insistence. He worked on strapping up to 8-9 animals in rows of 2 so that each of the beasts would experience maximum drafting benefits. The exception, of course, was for the poor creature stuck in front. He was hearty but his exposed nose was prone to feel the effects of the cold and excessive wind burn. It showed. Still, they were able to go at break-neck speeds, in which the locals would comment, "The boy is flying."

His work on those reindeer had ulterior motives: Layla was insistent that he deliver the prototypes of her designs to local customers to test in situ. He expanded his sled to include a large cargo hold. The animals would get incredibly strong by going through the daily motions of product delivery, thus increasing their speed. Kris was able to harness the animals, make a delivery, and get back on route before the customer even knew he was there. The whole 'down through the chimney' line was tongue in cheek by embarrassed home owners trying to explain how they didn't see someone in their house dropping of a bike.  

Layla had begun taking orders from the Alaskan Americans. One year, Kris needed to make a long delivery run as seen in the picture at the left. He wanted to get there and back quickly as he, ironically, hated the cold. By using the reindeer, he would not have to bring food on the sled for his herbivorous animals. He was already a big guy and he was willing to do anything to improve his power to weight ratio. Since he was unwilling to get on Layla's death device, he, like many modern triathletes, opted to reduce the weight of his ride instead of his belly (which was still sporting the in-the-front hydration system developed by his wife years earlier). In honor of the route, in much the same way that we honor Philippides for his work in the field of running, Kris's original route has been re-created today. It has become the Iditarod.

Layla insisted that Kris be safe when he went out on his delivery runs. She made him a large, red suit that she required him to wear. Much like the lead reindeer, Kris's face was prone to the elements. He grew a large beard to help protect himself from the cold. Apparently, the Americans were ever so happy with the Canadian products. Cervelo bikes are unparalleled in American triathlon culture, mostly due to the efficient manufacturing systems set in place by Layla and the delivery methods of Kris. Kris hated making multiple trips through Alaska and forced the athletes to accept delivery of his goods once a year, generally scheduled in late December. Why did Kris pick this time of year? It's because Layla closed down the factory line for a week long triathlon camp. Kris knew that if he stuck around, he'd be forced to exercise. Braving the elements was a far lesser evil than what Layla had lead her employees through.

There's a rumor floating around that Layla and Kris got married and had many children, which the employees of North Pole Unlimited loved dearly. The staff laughed and played with those little elves when they weren't working or working out.

Not many photos of Layla ever made it out of the North Pole. Since Kris was the public guy, he became the face of the company. Just like every good man, the success was really written by the woman behind the scenes. She was an introvert and very much like the comfort of her factory home. Once, when she was older, Layla did get a shot taken for a race. Notice in the picture that she is wearing her trademark red. Her hair is pulled back as to accommodate an aero-helmet (not pictured). She still lived in Canada where cold is much more common than warm, hence the fluffy turtle neck.

Rumor has it that one of her children emmigrated to Britain and is the descendent of Chrissie Wellington. In honor of her heritage, Chrissie still sports her ancestry red and white and keeps her hair pulled back. Much to the family's dismay, Chrissie refuses to use an aero-helmet in races but will workout in glasses (albeit tinted). I believe that the family resemblance is remarkable. I'll let you decide.

 So there you have it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Anyone Else Survive?

Today is December 22, 2012... It is the day after the world has ended. As with any mass tragedy, there are always a few survivors. I am one of the lucky ones. I made it, as did the Wife and dogs.

During our last few hours on the planet, we decided that we were going out in style. What does that mean in the Banter world? We ordered pizza and watched reruns of Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory. Normal bed time is near 10:00 pm. We decided to hit the sack at 9:00 on the eve of our destruction. What's the point in staying up? If I'm going down, it would be best to be well rested.

The arrival of the End was not what I expected. The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse took on non-traditional shapes in the greater Rochester area. They presented themselves as Darkness (which may have been because my circadian clock is set for 5:00 am and it was the night of the Winter Solstice), Coldness (which may have been due to the fact that it is late December), Windness (there was lots of wind), and Pansiness (because I'm a pansy). My world was blanketed in a bleaching white as snow attempted to cover the remains of what was once called Earth.

Since I'm sure that aid is not on the way, I took inventory of the necessary supplies. My Garmin had a full charge, meaning that I have about 20 more hours of workout data recording. The Clif Bar supply was holding steady at 12 bars. The energy gels count was strong, reporting in at 40 individual packets (with some unreported stragglers waiting to be found in various bags scattered throughout the house and the Cave). The powdered sports mix canisters were registering at full capacity. In the refrigerator stands a gallon of skim milk, some various condiments, and last night's left over pizza. I also have 4 full bottles and half a box of wine. It would seem that my nutrition needs will be met for quite some time.

I checked the electricity and heat. Both seemed to be flowing smoothly. My best guess is that the automation systems installed by the energy companies did not fail the bombardment. Same goes with the water supply. I am assuming that, since I am one of the few remaining survivors on the planet, the stress on the energy system will be greatly reduced. I should have plenty of heat, electricity, and water to survive the winter. I am also rejoicing at the fact that I no longer have to pay the utility bill (unless, of course, that has been automated too).

Later today, I am going to go for a run. The purpose of this excursion is 3 fold: First, I like running and the effect it has on my psyche. When times are bleak, it is important to hold on to a bit of normality. Running will be a coping mechanism that will be necessary in the days, weeks, and months to follow as I come to terms with being one of the only survivors left. I am not sure when i will encounter another non-Wife human being. Second, I am using the run as a scouting mission. I need to catalog the damage and see what, if anything, can be salvaged from my surrounding area. There will be work in the future. That work will require supplies. I need to know what is out there. Third, on the outside chance that the world did not end and life is as it was, I would like to stay in shape. The lack of destruction would correlate to an up-and-coming triathlon season.

Here are the conditions that I expect to see on my run, in the best case scenario:

I am assuming that the rest of the internet has been automated and archived. No further updates on the state of the planet are available at this time. The world as we know it is gone. Obviously, you made it through the catastrophe too or else you wouldn't be able to read these words. At least, I'd like to think that someone is out there reading these words (it was never a given under normal circumstances). We must cling to each other for support. I offer up as the last bastion of hope in the abyss that has become our reality. Keep up the faith and know that what ever happens, I still remain to offer up to you the gibberish that is commonly known as my blog.

Please feel free to chime in and tell me how you avoided the inevitable destruction. That information may prove vital to the survival of the species and future generations.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WW- New Shoes

I seem to have sprung a small niggle in my lower left leg area. It's kinda difficult to describe. First, the location is on the outside of my extremity, sort of where the Achilles meets the ankle, just above the foot level. It's sore but it doesn't hurt to touch it. But its little tender when I cross my legs.

Anytime I get a leg injury, I immediately suspect my training. Most of running related mishaps stem from drastic changes in routine. However, I looked at my log and noticed no large increases in volume, frequency or intensity. Being ever lazy cautious, I took a couple of days off of running. When I resumed, sure enough, the pain remained.

I am a stubborn one when it comes to training. I really like it and I'm not willing to stop. I've been contemplating drastic measures, such as stretching, to see if it will help. I'm not willing to go that far at this time but the thought has popped up.

In the meantime, I'm still searching for a scapegoat/ solution to the issue. My current focus is on my shoes. It's been a while since I've gotten a new set of sneaks. I got online and ordered me up a couple of new kicks. When the shoes arrive, I'm hoping to ease the tension in my left leg. I'm also hoping to get a little faster, so as to avoid possible dinosaurs.

I'd like to tell you that I'm in that "Averagely Fit Person" category. Yup, I'd like to tell you that. At this point, it looks like I'm going down.

Just for the record, I did not order these... Yet.

One of my problems may be related to my daily shoes. My daytime shoes have migrated towards the minimalist style. Perhaps these shoes may be contributing to the problem.

I admit to owning more than one pair of Vibrams Five Fingers. I got them on sale and find them incredibly comfortable. Sure enough, every time I have them on, I get the strangest looks, mostly from the Wife. Others are not really into the style. They'll wear sandals and flip-flops with the naked toes exposed without an issue. Cover your toes with some fabric and it's nothing but the stink eye.

Any other suggestions?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Anatomy of the Pain Cave- Part 1

The lack of sunlight hours coupled with having a job simultaneously with dropping temperatures can only mean 1 thing- it's long past time to get on the trainer. In my old house, that meant walking downstairs to the basement. The lower level of my old home was networked, had cable hookup, and had running water. It had the works. As a further bonus, the Wife had very little desire to spend any time down there. In a nutshell, it was mine.

Well, that all changed when we moved. The biggest obstacle in setting up shop in my new basement is, well, I don't really have a basement. It's more of a crawl space/ spider hangout. The furnace and hot water seem rather happy down there. It should be noted that they are under 4 feet tall. I did some measuring once and learned that if I get on the bike, while on the rollers, I have about 2 inches of clearance if I stay in aero position. I agree that this would be pretty good training in the form of perseverance in while aero, I am a little intimidated by the nails protruding through the floor boards and threatening my skull. Another solution would have to present itself.

That solution is found in the back of my garage. For some reason, the original owners of the house built a double-long, 4-bay garage. The front 2 are for vehicles (okay, only 1 actually has a vehicle and the other bay has the lawnmower-that counts as a vehicle, right?). Up until recently, the back bays were for storage. See, our old house was significantly larger than the new one. It's amazing how much crap you accumulate if you have the space.

I spent a weekend moving stuff around and came up with this:

There's my bike attached to the fork stand. The rollers wrapped up near the back wheels. In the background, you can catch glimpses of my junk (real junk, not the euphemistic). The walls and ceiling are uninsulated. This pic was taken near high noon and it's still pretty dark in there. The space is lit by a single bulb.

At the right is the view from the cockpit (click to enlarge). The TV stand is vintage 1987 as it sports a nice flat screen. The dvd player was a $32 Walmart special. In the cabinet are seasons 1-6 of the Simpsons, all 6 Star Wars episodes, and the Princess Bride (that's my entire library). The garbage can doubles as a helmet rack, towel rack, and remote control stand. As you can see, the flooring is solid concrete.

I was able to squeeze into the back side of the mess. The point of this picture was to show everyone an appropriate use of a treadmill. That machine has logged roughly 12 miles on my legs. I'll not likely be adding any more to it this season. It was installed in the garage as per the Wife's request. I did not plug it in. I do have my wetsuit hanging off the front bar, still drying from my last race, which was in late September. I haven't checked it recently but I'm pretty sure it's almost dry.
I remember a conversation with Jim, my Local Bike Shop guy at the beginning of last season. I was making an appointment for a tune-up and I trust the guys at the LBS with my bike completely. I recall Jim's words as if they were spoken yesterday. "If I remember  correctly, your bike tends to have lots of sweat induced corrosion. It make take extra time to do all of the stuff you want done." Jim doesn't beat around the bush and tells it like it is. I know that they sell products, such as the Bike Thong, designed specifically to solve this problem. Well, I'm poor. So I found a cheaper solution called Saran Wrap. And to be clear, Saran Wrap is too expensive. I use the generic plastic wrap sold by my local food store.

One truth about Part 1 of the Pain Cave is that it's not so warm. Here we are in mid December, and though the temps are a little warmer than average for Western NY, it's not so toasty in the Cave. I go out to ride and work up a good sweat while my feet go numb with the chill. Walking back into the house is awkward at best.

I have plans on upgrading the Cave to something a little more insulated. Maybe add a small heater. Maybe add a light and a mirror. Maybe remove the treadmill and replace it with something useful, such as a rock or a tree stump. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

WW- Cost Savings

There are few things blatantly obvious about my current lifestyle that are different now as compared to a year ago...
  • I've got 2 mortgages
  • I've got no money
  • I've got no game
  • I've still not signed up for any races
That first bullet on the list may soon change, thus changing the rest of the items in its wake. I don't want to jinx things before they happen but things are looking promising. Yes. Things.

Anyway, until things change, I've gone into money saving mode. Hence, the last bullet on the list. I also haven't bought any new tri stuff and my wine drinking has gone down to 7 days per week. Again, I'm cutting corners.

After doing research on how other people save money, I've learned that there are stores that sell un-cooked food for cheaper than prepared restaurant food. They have pretty much everything you could want in its native form. For example, you can buy chips and salsa in bags and jars as opposed to having it served to you in bowls. I found free range Clif Bars. Plus, there are more parts to a chicken than just a wing (which apparently are also not naturally covered in hot or mild bbq sauce). The things you learn on the internet.

I also discovered that these "grocery" stores will also further discount your items if you hand them a sheet of non-redeemable-for-cash papers called coupons. Surely this is a scam. Why in the world would they force you to print out a piece of paper to get a reduced price? Why not just be fair and offer the lowest prices for everyone? Apparently, some of these stores will actually pay money to have their coupons printed in junk mail and delivered to your doors. Weird. They pay money so that you can get a lower price on items you probably didn't want in the first place.

Well, not all coupons were created equally. Some are much better deals than others. Take this one, for example.

Now, I might actually need a new bike. Drat, it expired. Ok, not all stores offer 100% off deals. Most are a little less. Such as:

I don't know what to do in this situation. I do admit to getting hungry and will eat pretty much anything. However, I may think twice about cashing in a couple of these coupons.

Sadly, you are only allowed to eat up to 2 kids for free. Some deals are just too good to pass up. Look at the other free stuff you can get.

Sometimes I get really hungry. I'd have to be if I were going to shop here.

Since I'm probably not going to eat anything that's genuine Barf, I might opt for something a little more safe. As a triathlete, rice is certainly one of my staples. Except, when it's not.

It is the Holiday Season and many of you are looking for gift ideas. Ladies, here's something for your dads.

The PRP might appreciate some of these.

I'd like to send out a word of caution to my friends and family. There's a high probability you may get one of these items from me this year.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Those Medaling Prizes

As I look back on 2012, I noticed that there were several additions to my Finisher's Medals family. I see their rainbow colored ribbons strung down to an insignificant amount of metal and I scratch my head. Why? Why in the world to race organizers feel the need to hand these things out?

I got my first finisher's medal back in 1998. The second came from the same race in 1999. Both medals, and countess others reside in this bag, in a box, in my garage. Emperor Palpatine watches over them to ensure that they don't get into any mischief.

My old roommate and I were losers who had just finished college and had nothing else better to do with our lives than go running and participate in the local 5ks. He had this brilliant idea of signing up for the Chicago Marathon. I, of course, was/ am an idiot. "Sure. How hard could it be?" We spent the summer training pretty much the exact same way as for 5k except that we gradually increased our long runs. I actually finished the race with a respectable time, despite all of the post-race pain and crying. Upon crossing the line, some hot chick draped a piece of aluminum foil around my shoulders while another had the unfortunate job of placing the medal around my neck. Maybe it was because of the hot chick. Maybe it was because of the endorphin-induced runner's high. Maybe it was because of the lack of oxygen and glycogen to my brain. It most certainly was not because of the shiny triangle dingling down my sore chest. I couldn't have been happier. 

Those mark the only 2 times I have ever been stupid enough to run an open marathon.

This year brought 6 new Finisher's Medals into my home. I got one for a duathlon, half marathon, 2 half iron tris, a full iron tri, and one more for something I cannot remember. Not a single one has brought me any sort of joy or excitement. Upon arriving home from a Finisher's Medal event, I stop at the laundry room to unpack my stinkies. I learned many years ago that, if I don't clean out my bag immediately, I will not clean out my bag until my next event. My stuff reeks in real time. Three weeks in a closed-system does not improve the stench. While I dump my stuff into the special workout clothes hamper near my wash machine, I generally dump the medals onto the floor near the wash basin. (Note: This pic was not staged, much to the chagrin of the Wife.)

I've never seen anyone wearing their Finisher's Medals away from finishers line. Wonderful volunteers hand them out to the countless athletes. Most will walk around the race campus, eating the post-race food, having the post-race conversations, etc. The Finisher's Medals do not indicate a race time. Or race position. Or even a racer's name. The provide absolutely no data about the race itself. Most people take them off when they get to their car or, at the very latest, home.

Once in a while, after a particularly grueling race (grueling in terms of effort or in terms of a long drive home), the medal makes it to the bottom of my bag. The medal re-emerges later in life when I re-pack the bag for the next event. I don't normally enjoy carrying around extra weight, so I'll dump the medal on the nearest, most convenient location. This is typically my dresser, right next to my belts.

Those medals are in my line of vision on a daily basis, yet I never actually see them. They have become part of the landscape to which I have grown accustomed. I don't even know how many are there or which events they represent.

That fact may be the reason I hate them so much. 'Hate' may be too strong of a word but I am using it in the "I really wish they would stop handing these annoying, useless forms of participant ribbons out." Unlike the 'free' t-shirt which has names of sponsors and may actually be seen in public, the medal does not advertise the race to anyone else. People will receive their shirt with the cost of admission and wear it during the race. Maybe a photographer will snap a shot for the local news with the endorsement clearly visible. I still have and wear some of my race shirts from the 90s. The long-sleeved shirt in the pic at the left was from the Chicago 1/2 Marathon in 1999. I wore this at the 2011 Rochester Half. I would say that the RDs got their advertising investment back after 12 years of running in that shirt. Think of how many people I passed or passed me just in that one race alone. The back of the shirt has that long list of businesses who paid money to get their names on the back of that shirt. The subliminal message scientists would have a field day analyzing that kind of promotion.

Shortly after that picture, I got a Finisher's Medal. It will never see the light of day again. It won't make it to another race. It won't be featured in any future race reports or photo-ops.

Pretty soon, the Wife will force me to do something with the hardware scattered around the house. And she is right to do so. Slobs like me need extra encouragement. When that day comes, I could huddle up all of those pieces of useless decoration and ship them off to amazing charity organizations such as Medals 4 Mettle. They scoop up your negative attitudes and give them to sick children and their families. Pointless artifacts can be turned into smiles and tokens of honor as opposed to the burden they have become in my life.

I have donated all of my Age Group awards and trophies to charity. I keep some of my race shirts. Some have gone to charity. Some have gone to the garage to clean my bike. Some are too heinous for any of those tasks and head to the trash. However, when the time comes, I'll will probably gather up my Finisher's Medal's hardware and place it in the Emperor Palpatine bag like I have done with each and every medal I have ever received. Into the bag they will go along with the Chicago Medals. And the IMLP medals. And various running events. And various triathlon events.

I still don't know the purpose of this swag. Their function is completely beyond my comprehension. Yet, I keep them all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

WW-Weight Loss Foods

It's that time of year again. We're stuck smack dab in the middle of the proverbial holiday season. Along with decreased sunlight comes increased calorie consumption coupled with declining exercising. I am trying my best to forgo the latter but, for me, the former is inevitable.

I noticed the calorie consumption problem after stepping on the scale recently. I was not happy with the number. It's time that I did something about reversing the slope of my weight-gain to a more negative order. Therefore, I, like many before me, have signed up for a account with the intent to start counting calories.

Slightly off topic... I have weird conversations with my students often. Just the other day we dove into the science behind pimples. And why coaches tend to avoid post-competition huddles with their athletes due to the smell. And the reason for high sodium content in urine. They want to know all of the good stuff.

Once in a while, we jump on the conversation of food. I'm a pretty firm believer that I will eat anything at least once. I do accompany this statement with some conditions: Namely that the food must also be consumed by others and that it is prepared by someone with the knowledge of how to cook said food. Most of the time, this conversation is preceded by a bug topic. Yes, I have actually eaten a bug or two on purpose. In fact, I'd eat them any day over bacon.

Thankfully, my kids aren't that learned on other, non-insect options available on the market. These following items may have me rethinking my "eat anything at least once" mantra. Even MyFitnessPal doesn't have a listing for them. I'm certainly not going to add them to the queue.

Because pigs are smarter than most other animals.

I wonder what the old and un-improved was like

No specific part, just any camel meat

I always thought that coon and possom don't mix.

MMM, BBQ Scorpions

Sheep's tongues are BaaaahD

Because Eels really need to have a jelly

This is "Fish Mouths" in whatever language that is.

I'm pretty sure this is Spanish for "Canned Crap"
In case you're wondering where the Crap came from
If those items were staple in my house, I'd meet my weight loss goals rather quickly. Anyone else got other weight loss foods they'd like to share?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Characteristics of a Good Runner (A case study)

I've been in kind of a running block lately. I'm on my 4th week in a row of ~30 miles per week. I plan on doing this indefinitely, which means absolutely nothing as I am a horrible planner. It's still nice to have aspirations.

One of the reasons for my increased mileage lately is that I would like to work on my weaknesses in the sport of triathlon. Out of swimming, biking and running I have biking and running weaknesses. Due to work/ holiday/ pansy scheduling, running gives me the highest rate of return on my time investment. Therefore, I run.

My progress has been slow. There are a few reasons for this.
  1. I am not a good runner.
  2. Okay, I'm not even a mediocre runner
  3. Okay, okay, I'm not even a runner (if there is any argument, see pic at right)
  4. Even if I were a runner, running progress would still be slow. Such is the nature of the sport.
I, like most Americans, would like to take short cuts in becoming a better runner. If only there were a pill I could take and magically become a runner. (Aside: I'm pretty sure there are pills. I'm also pretty sure that they would be on the USADA banned-substance list. Since I also want to compete, the pill idea is out. End Aside.) In addition to running more, I've taken a more scientific approach to my running. My goal- to learn what good runners do differently than dolts like me.

My scientific studies are in their preliminary stages. I admit that a larger sample set would be needed in order to make my research more valid. Allow me to explain. See, I don't have much money (another reason I'm not on the pill) and therefore couldn't recruit large numbers of volunteers ('cause you're supposed to pay volunteers, right?).

As a fiduciary consequence, I recruited only those that are really close to me. However, I'm not that popular of a guy (which makes sense since triathlon is not that popular of a sport). Given that I have limited my resources to those willing to work for free and those who actually like me, my selection pool is not as large as I would have hoped.

In the end, my options for study (based on the criteria above) netted just 3 individuals: The Wife, The Big Dog, and The PRP. The Wife has been plagued by a knee injury. That and she is quite unwilling to get up at 5:00 am in sub-freezing wind to do a 7 mile tempo run. She declined the invitation to be involved in the study.

The Big Dog is a 120 pound Newfoundland. He is as cute and as furry as could be imagined. He is also the reason I own a second dog. Way back when the Big Dog had just concluded his puppy stage, I wanted to take him for a run. Dogs like running, right? He seemed excited when I got out the leash. He was even able to keep a decent pace. For about 58 yards. (I measured.) That's when he stopped. As in, he utterly refused to run another step. He sat down and dug his massive paws into the concrete. I tugged on the leash. Nothing. I yelled at him. He panted back in defiance. I tried to force him to go. Key word is 'tried'. He was willing to move from his spot the moment we turned and headed back home. His message was clear- He will not be running. In our household, he is affectionately referred to as "Her Dog."

That's when I announced to the family that we will be getting a proper running dog. Granted, I had ordered a pure bred Golden Retriever.  My previous dog was a Golden and he was great. The Amish guy, who also made us a high quality kitchen table, told me it was a pure GR. He was clearly not correct. By our best guess, the PRP is half Golden and half Yellow Lab. He is easily the best runner I know. Therefore, all of my conclusions are based on observations made of the dog. His dog. (It's true, we have his and hers dogs.)

Characteristic 1-Take Care of Business Early
I have noticed a significant change in behavior of the PRP during the beginning of the run to the end of the run. Whether it's going potty or getting in some squirrel chasing, the business of the run is taken care of during the first half of the workout. He does a little bit of running to loosen up, then he expends his excess energy.

I have learned that if I have hills or intervals planned for the day, I will do those in the first half of my run. My energy is higher and therefore I can make my sets more intense.

Characteristic 2- Steady as She Goes Late
The PRP somehow knows when we have entered the second half of the run. I don't consult with him about the workout ahead of time. He doesn't ask questions. Yet, he has this clairvoyance about the route which translates into reduced bunny hunting and more of sitting at my heels kind of running. He is clearly happy keeping at this pace and distance (which I don't understand given that dogs have a heightened sense of smell and I stink when I run).

I have learned that the last half of the run is a great time to work on pacing. Keeping a steady gait will yield endurance dividends.

Characteristic 3- Speed Work in the Afternoon
Morning times are for distance in the Banter household. Once the mileage is achieved, I go off to work and try to convince the young minds of the world that social studies sucks science is the key to our future. Upon my return, the PRP is ready for some sprinting. He grabs his bouncy ball and leads me to the Chuck-It. I toss the ball and he races after the orb as it he were saving the planet. Each and every time.

I have learned that no good running program can do without the speed work. You cannot get fast with just miles and miles alone. Sure, once you get started, mileage-only will generate speed. But, this is a law of diminishing returns. Speedwork is best accomplished in the afternoon when the core body temp is up, along with (hopefully) the sun.

Characteristic 4- The Importance of Recovery
It doesn't matter workout set we have just completed- from a 3 mile recover run to a mile 6 mile tempo run to a 10 mile long run, the PRP's behavior is exactly the same upon our return. He goes into the house, drinks enough water to sate his thirst, then finds a nice soft place to lay down and take a nap. In fact, he stays in napping mode for most of the day while I'm at work trying to convince the young minds of the world that fashion is dead biology and chemistry really are worthwhile fields of study.

I have learned that napping after a good run is a great way to recover. Your body increases it's production of naturally made HGH while allowing the muscles to repair any exercise related damage. In fact, on off days, I make it a point to do as little movement and work as possible. Ya know, purely for the recovery part and no, um, other reason.

So there you have it. Four simple, yet easily attainable characteristics that nearly anyone can mimic. I admit that I struggle with the last one on a regular basis (a fact that I would like to remedy). If you, too, are interested in becoming a better runner, those characteristics will help you on your way.

Oh, and just because they are so cute, here's one of my favorites.