Saturday, December 28, 2013

Peace on Earth

If you live in America, you'll have noticed that there was not a lot of action the other day. Regardless of the separation of Church and State, the nation pretty much came to a screeching halt while countless people celebrated a national past time of not working (that is true, of course, for everyone not in law enforcement, emergency services, the Jewish Starbucks, or currently living at the North Pole).

I, being an adult without children, get excited on Christmas morning just like everyone else under the age of 7, albeit for different reasons. I have something awesome to look forward to: my daily run.

Triathletes across the Northern Hemisphere experience a big lag in between races, forced upon us by waning sunlight, falling temperatures, and a propensity towards pansy-isms. (I lead the charge on that last one.) Winter time is commonly called the 'off season' in many circles of amateur, non-organized, summer sports. I think that calling winter the 'off season' is quite a poor application of the word. To me, the off season means, well, off. Not semi off. Not kinda off. Not off in the sense of "does this smell off to you?" Not off in the "his brain is a little off". (Oft heard as a response to reading my blog) (ha- that's the joke- no one often reads nor responds). But off as in doing nothing.

Christmas Day is the epitome of the off season for most. They take pretty much everything, except eating and watching TV, off. No work. No play. It's mostly just sitting, eating, drinking, and throwing paper wads at eat other made from the spoils of a recently unwrapped gift.

Not for me, though. I go for a run. (Okay, I do participate in all of the above. I admit it, it's pretty darn fun.)

I really look forward to this run. Sure, it was a bit chilly outside this year, with a runtime temperature of 16º F (or -9º C in case anyone with a good system of measurement is reading). There were a few clouds in the sky and there was a light breeze. I, sadly, being experienced with this sort weather, had ample amounts of clothing. This included 4 shirts, ear thingies, hand thingies, and my regular socks and shoes (unsure about the pants). With the rest of the country essentially doing nothing, I get the roads to myself.

My run was a short four and a third miler at an easy pace, I.E. nothing special. It was just a run. Except that it was real and it was spectacular. I was able to count the number of cars that passed me in either direction: n=13. I was out in the bliss for 35 minutes, making the automobile frequency of 1 car for every 2.8 minutes of running. Not once did I see 2 cars at the same time. I did see 9 deer, 3 other runners, 6 sledders, and 2 people taking a walk with their dogs. It was very much running utopia.

If you read the articles that are abundant this time of year, they will boast about the benefits of Christmas running. They'll cite metabolism, calories, endorphins, and a bunch of other sciency sounding words. I'm not going to tell you that they're wrong. I'm telling you that I think they miss out on the greatest point of all.

Rarely does a runner get to experience such an opportunity for relative solitude and peacefulness on the road. Rarely does a runner get to enjoy the open road without the imminent fear of certain demise. Rarely does a runner get to be in the majority of things without motors versus things requiring gasoline. Rarely does a non-running sloth get to call himself a runner.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A State of Intolerance

My whole life, I've been an eater. I like food. Luckily for me, I also have this cardio addiction. The 2 are forever at war with each other. Sometimes, the food-loving portion of my existence tips the scales (literally and figuratively). Other times, I let the Wookie win the calories-out side of the equation dominates. The result has been a rather life-long equilibrium of non-overweightness coupled with my fair share of sweaty, smelly clothes.

Should anyone ask, my favorite food is, hands down, chocolate. I can't remember a day going by when something chocolaty has not crossed my lips. Usually, chocolate hits my system multiple times a day. Sometimes, it's 100% of my daily intake. This is not to say that I don't like other foods. Quite the contrary, I like almost every food (except for bacon- I loathe that vile excuse for a meat's existence). I've always had this endless, cast-iron stomach; able to handle food in epic portions and random mixtures of organic compounds.

In the past year, I've met my match. It took a rather surprising form. Upon it's ingestion, I am rendered even more useless than normal, which makes me about as valuable as a 3 dollar bill. My new nemesis: the Almond.

Nutritionally, it's supposed to be a healthy nut. It's loaded with protein and fat. And, not the bad kind of fat, but the Glinda- the Good Witch kind. Regardless of it's accolades, I cannot tolerate this food.

That's not to say that I don't like it. Quite the contrary. I think it's remarkably delicious. I've enjoyed its flavor in its 'raw' form. Its 'roasted salty' form. Its 'sliced and mixed with other foods' (such as chicken or green beans) form. Its 'lubed for her pleasure' form. Its 'mashed up 'butter'' form. They're all good.

Except that my digestive system, for some reason, stopped agreeing with me. I have what's commonly known as adult onset almond intolerance. This is not the same thing as an allergy. Nut allergies usually impact the respiratory system. The resulting lack of ability to breathe can be quite deadly for the allergee. As opposed to an intolerance, which can be quite deadly to the others in the room.

With any of my food problems, I will occasionally re-validate. Like I said before, I like to eat and I hate it when an item is removed from the palate. Yes, I've even re-validated my hatred for everything bacon. I've never liked it and it seems that I never will.

Recently, I revalidated my almond intolerance. The Wife made some almond butter based chocolate chip cookies. Once she decided to put chocolate into the mix, I was sold on the attempt (addiction is not pretty). Plus, I was curious to a couple of things: 1. Will cooked almond butter cause a reaction? 2. What are the individual Banter Intolerance phases? This time, I took careful notes to try and understand the process scientifically. Sure enough, the cookies were extraordinarily good. I am saddened to report that I'll probably not eat another one again.

I'm posting this now so that you, dear Bantee, can be aware of the symptoms and have an understanding of what is happening in your body.

Step 1: Ingestion
This seems simple enough. Simply introduce the intoleragen (yes, I just made that word up) into your digestive system. The best way is through eating. I have not experimented with other methods, probably since I am unwilling to purchase almond suppositories.

Step 2: Gestation
This part is purely psychological warfare. See, you've eaten something that you think will cause a problem. Only thing is that it's not immediate (at least not for me). There is this time period in which the food travels the length of your esophagus and enters the stomach. Now, I'm not exactly sure where the reaction takes place. It could be in the stomach. It could be in the duodenum. During the wait-period, there is nothing but joy. I am cured! Then, you start thinking of all of the other food opportunities that await you newly found intolerant-free existence. Until Step 3 hits like a bully's punch to the gut.

Step 3: The Build Up
Your intestines are designed around the movement of solids and liquids. Sure, there are some gas molecules down there. Partly, there is marginal amounts of air leftover from the swallowing process. Majorly, there are some products as a result of enzyme-aided chemical reactions. Well, one or ten-thousand of these processes has just been ramped up. As a consequence, your belly fills up like an airbag during an automobile collision.

Whereas modern-day man will point to an infinite expansion level of the mid-section, that is a slow build up. In Intolerant Land, it feels like something is about to burst. You look at your belly button in hopes that you'll find the secret pressure release valve. No luck.

Step 4: The Churning
Initially, the pressure is in your upper abdominal region. But, you can feel it migrate. There are approximately 22 feet of small intestine in the average human (I haven't measured mine just yet. Been meaning to, but who has the time for such things?) If you put your hand on your stomach, not only is it extra sensitive to your touch but you can feel a creature moving its way south. You start to think that it's going to burst out. (Don't worry, it will. But that's in the next step.) I'm pretty sure that the origin of the famous scene from Alien(s)/ Spaceballs (pictured) was influenced by someone with a food intolerance.

Step 5: The Release
Note- sometime during step 4, it's probably best that you communicate to anyone in your immediate vicinity of situation and the risks of their proximity. This is especially important if you have only 1 bathroom.

The Release happens suddenly. You'll likely be curled up in the fetal position due to the never ending presence of steps 3 and 4. However, once the Release comes a knocking, all other sensations and discomforts are forgotten as panic sets in. You run to the nearest depositing station.

What comes out in no way resembles what went in (but isn't that always the case?). The main ingredient is water, meaning that your large intestine has stopped functioning normally and switch all of its effort on the evacuation procedure. The large intestine does its new job well, adding an extra layer of intensity. Now, depending on the volume of food you have consumed that day, a courtesy flush or 2 may be in order.

Step 6: The Cycle
I'm sorry to report but this whole process does not end after the Release. In fact, it starts over at Step 3 (unless, of course, you are stupid enough to continue eating) (which I, umm, may or may not know through experience). Upon leaving the bathroom (or wherever you made your deposit) after step 5, it's nice to turn on a vent fan or light a candle out of respect for those that may live with you, including your pets. It is unlikely that you had time to do so on the way in. Advanced tip: leave the fan and candle running for a while.

Here's what's going to happen. You'll resume your fetal position on the couch, bed, -or for the experienced intolerators- the bathroom floor. The Build-Up, The Churning, and The Release will happen again and again rendering you useless for the next several hours.

There is, however, a gleam of hope. The amount of time between one episode to the next increases. During round 1, the cycle make take a total of 2 minutes between Releases. Round 2 may take 2.5 minutes. And, with each passing Release, intensity lessens.

Scientifically put: time and intensity are inversely related. This means that as the time interval (x-axis) increase, the amount of discomfort (y-axis) decreases. Be advised- units may vary. Even better, it's an exponential relationship (see graph). You'll start feeling better and for longer periods of time. Soon, you'll be able to tolerate non-fetal positions. After a few hours, you might even be able to turn off the bathroom fan and blow out the candle. Your loved ones may attempt to use the bathroom again. If you have any respect for them, you should run some cleaner around the pot.

1. Will cooked almond butter cause a reaction? Yes. The mashing and baking process did not denature whatever chemical(s) that my discomforts.

2. What are the individual Banter Intolerance phases? Ingestion, Gestation, Build-up, Churning, and Release. Lather- rinse- and repeat.

The Take-Home Message
Please don't feed me almonds. There is a high probability that I will eat them. It won't be pretty for either of us.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lessons from Behind the Shovel

It has snowed every day since my last post. This is not a complaint, rather a statement of fact. Mother Nature has decided to bless my home with its vile sputum.

When it comes to snow, I am sort of lawful good versus this neutral evil's presence on my land (Aside: I was thinking, originally, that I am chaotic good. But, truth be told, I just don't look that good in a golden bikini. End aside). When faced with 2 options: 1. snow removal on my driveway, or 2. doing something less important, such as getting to work on time or rescuing children from a burning building, you will likely find me out front of the house with a shovel in my hand. There really is no way around it (Aside 2: This is a neurotic fact that the Wife has had to deal with for years. If we had moved someplace warmer, it would be a non-issue. End Aside 2.)

I have a large driveway which means I spend a lot of time out there with a stick in my hand. This also give me ample time to think. Most of the time, I dream of someplace sunny. That, or monkeys. However, during one of my recent OCD sessions, I started to correlate how the process of shoveling snow very much mimics training. I shall share this lunacy with promptly.

Start Slowly
Whether you're removing snow, just starting your season, or simply starting your workout, there's no need to make the first minute the hardest minute. Getting in to your pace and finding your groove is a much better way to stay in it for the long term. Starting too fast will more easily lead to exhaustion, burn-out, or injury. Not to mention that you may finish early and what in the world would you do with all that extra time? (Hint- the correct answer is train more.)

Actual pic of me and our recent snow
Get the Right Equipment
This doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive. It means get the stuff that can do the job. If you're going running, get a pair of running shoes that fit you (preferably something in a non-neon color). If you are doing group rides, get a road bike. If you are doing time trials or triathlons, get a tri bike. If you are going mountain biking, don't forget to ride off the cliff some sort of fat-tired thingy will suffice. If you are shoveling snow, don't use your garden spade.

See, there is such a thing as equipment specificity. In biology, we teach that structure matches function. If you want smooth, efficient function, then get the stuff that was designed for that stuff. In snow removal, I'm a pusher and not a thrower. In cycling, I'm a spinner and not a grinder. In running, well, I do something that resembles running. My gear reflects these habits.

Careful with Your Electrolytes
Because I have the right equipment and because I am efficient in my shoveling, I don't salt the drive. I don't need to. There's no snow left. There's no ice. There's only the original blacktop, the same stuff and consistency that you would see in the summer. If you do the job correctly, you won't need the salt.

The same can be said for training. Salt tablets or electrolyte supplements are found in many an endurance athlete's gear bag. Personally, I don't use them. Even in the longest, hottest events, I haven't needed them.

I would likely be more right than wrong when I tell you than 98% of the people don't need them 98% of the time. Even for the people who do 'officially' need them, they certainly don't need supplementation for each and every workout. ('Officially' in quotes as it's highly unlikely that the average athlete has done any blood work and urine samples pre and post workout to quantify their needs- most people are holistic in this regard and do what they think is best based on perception) (Aside 3- Want a fun afternoon? Try drilling a salt supplementer to give you a firm definition of what the words "heavy sweater" means. Then, try convincing them that they really don't need 'em. This will be hours of entertainment if you have the stamina. End Aside 3.)

Don't Get Plowed
There is nothing more beneficial to a community than the plow truck. These selfless beings arise in the wee hours of the mornings and drive their 4 mile-per-gallon vehicles slowly through the dark with the singular goal of removing all but the last inch of snow from the ground. They make sure you are aware of their awesomeness by announcing their presence with un-muffled motors, nail-on-chalkboard type scraping of metal on asphalt. And, just in case the sound doesn't alert you, they have bright, flashy lights on top of their cars implying that the average motorist cannot see a vehicle 4x the size of a typical SUV. (Coming from a guy who spends a lot of time on these same roads biking and plodding running, they may actually have a point there.) Many of these trucks come standard with a fertilizer spreader loaded with electrolytes that they probably wouldn't need if their plows actually did an efficient job of removing the snow. Sigh.

In my world, the other meaning of 'getting plowed' is just as significant. Drinking too much alcohol is also a non-efficient way to run my season. Sure, I'll have the occasional fifth of vodka glass of fermented grape. Okay, it may be more than one glass. And it's probably not correct to use the word occasional. The term glass could be better replaced with carafe. But, the concept still stands, as my repeated experimenting has proven enough for the hypothesis to become a scientific law- I'm a goon the positive effects of alcohol are temporary while the impact on training is much more long term.

Therefore, I don't invite the plow truck into my driveway. And I don't invite ethanol into my mouth. (At least, not on a school night.) (For either.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Karma

The Background
I'm sure you're familiar with the concept. Karma.

  • Your current actions determine consequences to be bestowed upon you later
  • What comes around goes around
  • Be good and good things will happen to you. Be bad and bad things will happen to you
  • My Name Is Earl

Over the past year, I've been, among other things, working, training, racing, and flying by missing the ground. On my list of other things, I've been working on the Pain Cave. Here's my last post on the topic, just in case you wanted to catch up.

This work includes sanctioning off a sizable section of the garage. Constructing a new wall. Adding electricity. Moving all of my junk to the other side of the room. Installing heat. I'll post some specifics about the Pain Cave 2.0 in a little while because this specific post is about Karma.

The Set-Up
Take a look at this text message conversation between the BIL and me from a short period ago.

Upon inspection, you should notice a few obvious details.
  1. I figured out how to take a screen shot of my phone without actually borrowing the Wife's phone and taking a picture of my phone.
  2. My contact name for the BIL is actually "The BIL"
  3. He is giving me crap about insulating and heating my workout room
  4. He failed at knowing my location. I'm in upstate NY, not NYC (a common mistake).
  5. He, likely, nailed my sexuality
If you are a faithful Bantee, you'd know that I have the utmost admiration of the Banter-In-Law. He's one of the few people that I can talk to about sport in the family who actually gets it. Yet, he is a trained meteorologist who doesn't seem to understand the weather.

It's no secret that I am no big fan of the cold. I live in the dredges of upstate NY via my obligation to the Wife. She's a rare specimen of many virtues (who seems content to put up with my crap) and I'll do anything to please her (okay, I try with varying levels of success). If one of her desires is to live in the land of no future, so be it. Being north of the center of the temperate zone, we are no stranger to the seasons. Currently, and for a vast majority of the year, it is the cold season.

The BIL, in a former life, lived here as well (which makes it even weirder that he thought I was in NYC). He was smart enough to escape to a dryer, flatter, windier place. Which is rumored to be warmer. 'Rumored' is the key word in this sentence.

The Delivery
Here's a nice map of our recent weather. And by 'our', I mean the entire country from a day or two ago (I'm a slow writer).

I live around here.

The BIL lives near here. (Please don't drive to his house and give him crap.) (To be clear, you can give him crap. Just don't drive to his house.)

As you can see, most of the country has been plunged into frigidly cold temperatures. All except much of the east coast. Our weather is exactly what we'd expect for this time of year..

If anyone out there is not enjoying the cold, you can blame the BIL. He brought this scourge upon himself and the lot of you. It's Karma baby.

Now if you'll excuse me, my toasty, insulated workout room is calling.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Happy New Year!!

I know what you are thinking (and by 'know' I actually mean 'I think I know) (and by 'thinking' I'm actually trying to implant thoughts into your head for my convenience) upon reading the title of this post.

1. You're thinking, "Where the hell have you been?"
2. Hey doofus, it's December and not the New Year yet. Even the Chinese, with their warped calendaring system, don't call this the New Year. What's wrong with you?

The answers to both questions are complicated and I'll do my best to explain as much as possible.

What is the Answer?
On point #1, back in July, I was hanging out with one of my friends (which narrows down the field since I pretty much have only 1 friend anyway)(and the word 'friend' might actually be an exaggeration) who suggested that I grab a towel and we go for a ride. Now, I'm not normal in any sense of the word and I don't think twice about it when my non-normal friend makes a non-normal request. Mostly, I oblige and follow along.

Well, what happened next is a blurr of events that's rather bizarre to explain. I went off world, the Earth was rumored to have been exploded, I met some aliens who were intent on my death, and had dinner at a restaurant near the end of the Universe. (It was quite nice. If you happen to go there, I suggest that you try the fish.) Just don't go to any Cricket matches and you'll be golden. Trust me on this.

And, just in case your were wondering, the answer is indeed 42. I know this now that I have returned. Just don't ask me to explain how I know. I could explain it, but that's not the point of the post. Plus, the moment you ask the question, the answer's going to be 42 again anyway. You and I will get stuck in an infinity loop when all that's really needed is your acceptance of the 42.

As for number 2, I've got a different version of a calendar than the government. To be honest, I've got several, different, non-governmental-type calendars that I regularly use.

On Calendars in General
Let's start by looking at the traditional calendar that lists the days and months in sequential order. It ends on December 31 and starts anew on January 1. Yes, I'm aware that January was so named in honor of the God of Doors and Gates. I'm not normally in the habit of pissing off deities, regardless of how petty their specialty is, so I refuse to put dates and times on my calendar. I'm also aware that the actual decision of when January 1st arrives was pretty much arbitrary. The Romans tried to encompass the Greeks, which was later edited by the Christians and forced upon the rest of the world during the Middle Ages.

In my opinion, a calendar should represent something very real and measurable. I'd have a lot more respect for that thing that hangs on my wall if there was some sort of clear criteria for why they picked Jan 01 in the way that they did. It does not fall on the solstice, or equinox, or aphelion, or perihelion, or moon phase, or the first day of Shark Week. Someone just said, "Today feels like a new year" and went forward. Later on, they found some research by Confucius, Copernicus, Kepler, and Sheldor the Great which may or may not have matched the aforementioned arbitrarily chosen day.

Deviant Calendar Systems
There is precedence for ignoring the Gregorian calendar. Car sales do this all the time. We are only 90% of the way finished with 2013 and they are already selling 2014s. I'm not sure how this is exactly legal, selling a model car named for a year which hasn't happened yet. It reeks of false advertising to me but it is quite common practice.

The new season of TV shows doesn't seem to follow any sort of concrete system. They do reruns in the summer and the 'new season of Fox' starts sometime mid fall. Some guy (not being sexist here, it's just that I'm pretty sure it's a guy) (but, really, you never can tell with Hollywood types these days so you have a good point there) tosses a dart at the arbitrarily chosen calendar hanging on his wall and the network airs the first original content (using those terms loosely) on that date.

Every school year starts off at some point in space-time that barely uses any logic. If you are in a non-NY state, the system typically goes as follows:

  • Decide on when you would like Christmas Break to occur.
    • But, don't call it Christmas break. You might offend someone. Call it "Holiday Break" or some other form of non-religious type word. Examples: End of Semester Break. End of Year Break. Breaking 2- Electric Boogaloo.
      • But, still treat it as Christmas Break even though the name says differently.
  • Read the State law on how many days are required per school year. That number is typically between 180-190 and may be different (for no real reason) that last year. Divide this number by 2.
  • Since you are likely a graduate of the public school system, do not do any real math. You'll likely screw it up. Instead, start counting backwards beginning at the answer to the first bullet point and continuing until you've arrived at the answer to the second bullet point.
  • Once again, go to your State Charter and find out which, ahem, non-religious holidays that you are required to adhere. Keep in mind that "Superintendent's Conference Day" is a legal holiday.
  • Extend your calendar to include these dates as days off.
  • Viola- you have successfully discovered the start of your calendar, which is somewhere in the heat of August.
If you live in NY State, the process goes as follows:
  • Start on the first Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day, thus ensuring that NYS menses are out of sync with the rest of the country
  • Add in Holidays and Christmas Break (see disclaimer above)
  • Ignore all of the research and data showing regression over extended periods of time off. End your semester about 3 weeks after Christmas Break with large, standardized State tests. 
    • Make sure kids know that their ability to graduate depends on their success on the test.
    • Make sure teachers know that their ability to teach will be based on their students' success.
      • But, don't hold the teachers accountable for student scores anyway
The Banter's Calendar
The start of my calendar is just as arbitrary as everybody else's calendar. The only difference is that I'm not afraid to admit that I just made it up. And, like all the other calendar creators out there, I have a reason for my calendar. I suggest that all athletes develop a similar calendar for themselves.

My calendar calculation starts with my big A-race of the 2014 season. In my case, I signed up for Ironman Mt. Tremblant. Note: This is not the END of my calendar, it's only a benchmark to determine the beginning. IMMT 2014 is on August 17th of the Gregorian Calendar.

Next, I have to determine how many training days are needed to achieve my race goals. This includes full analyses of my weaknesses coupled with the amount of time needed to see the desired results in a realistic fashion (meaning I pulled a number out of my wazoo). Then I add a couple of weeks for setbacks, such as illness, injuries, family obligations, and pansiness. The number of setback days is usually greater that the number of training days.

Now, since I too am a graduate of the American public school system, I do no math and I start counting. Since my number is right around 252 as of this post (I admit that I had to use an internet calculator to help me out with this. It can be found here), I started counting. 

As a result, my training season has already started. I have begun training for the season. Not the 2013 season. That season is long over and since been swept under the rug. All of my current work is being done for a year that most of the world hasn't recognized yet. Let them put it off. Not me. I'm already in 2014. Feel free to join me in the new year and don't delay the start of your season any longer.