Thursday, July 24, 2014

Low quality blogging

So I've done some stuff that warranted blogging recently but failed on crafting an opus worthy of your consideration. So, here goes a lower quality rendering of recent events.

Firstly, my daughter and I rode in the Huntington Bicycle Club's Gold coast ride. They had a variety of distances but I figured that even without any training knocking off the 25 mile route should not be an issue. I was wrong.

I've only done the very short 12 mile route with my daughter when she was about 8 years old but have ridden many of the roads that the 55, 75 and 100 mile routes cover. I forgot that someone once described this ride's route as "come to a crossroad, pick whichever seems to go up the most, repeat."We started the ride, realized I was in over my head, and crafted a "short cut" back to the car. Even so, 19 miles was better than sitting on the couch. I have yet to look at the power data as I don't want to cry about how out of shape I am.

Secondly, we had to swing up to Augusta, Maine for a few days to visit my other daughter at camp. Augusta has a great rail trail along the Kennebec river so we were able to get our for a run/walk. I don't have a picture of it but we saw a collection of water bottles for the runner on the side of the trail. While I do this sometimes with my water sometimes with concern, the Maine slant was that their car keys were left there too! I guess if you don't like your car, just pick some keys from the pile to try another. Another reminder that Maine ain't New York.

That's all I got for now. Stay tuned.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Almost an event - the Color Run

Last weekend my daughter, out of the blue, said she wanted to do a color run and there just happened to be one in Brooklyn on Sunday. She wanted my wife and I to join her as she said she always wanted to do a color run. I had no desire to do a color run, haven't been training at all (and that includes running) so I thought about it for about 2 seconds before saying I was in.

Mostly I haven't been running because I have a lot of pain in my ankles. Dr.Google led me to self diagnose Achilles tendinitis but even with reduced activity, the pain has become impacting on my lazy ass day to day even walking. Before this concept of a 5k color run I actually went to a real person doctor who said that it is probably due to scar tissue from my previous running escapades. He prescribed anti-inflammation drugs and stretching. It helped but I still gimp around. I felt I couldn't hurt myself anymore so we gave it a shot.

Highlights of the day:
  • The race was about an hour away and started relatively late (9am) so we didn't have to get up at stupid o'clock.
  • We ate some bagels before heading out. They always taste better before an event.
  • I realized I didn't have a strategy except survival. I told my daughter and wife we would see what happens but to plan on walking most of it.
  • I had never done a color run before. I needed a mostly white outfit that would basically be a throw away. A tee shirt from "Jacque C Penne" for 10 bucks and a $3 hat from Michael's were perfect.
  • There was a lot of traffic. These events are popular!
  • No matter how many portal-potty exist, there never is enough. An they always set a record for the vilest. I forgot the hold your breath method until it was too late.
  • The lines were long for preregistration but went quickly. They were organized.
  • We headed over to the corral and started relatively quickly.
  • Very few people were running, most were walking so we fell right in.
  • The color they throw is like a powder. There were 4 color stations along the course and some people were getting very colorful.
  • My daughter ran up to me and said she was doing snow angels in the purple. She wasn't alone.
  • There was a big party afterwards that we stay for a little while.
  • The race itself wasn't timed. There was no medals or podiums.
  • I think I won. I did get a race shirt that I wore afterwards.
  • It took 3 days before all the color was off me. With a lot of scrubbing.
I expect we'll sign up again next year because this event, while expensive, was fun and got us a little active. Everyone seem happy at the race they dub "the happiest 5k."

PS: The bonus was that I didn't make my aches and pains any worse. Sort of a sign to get more active.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Is a graduation a beginning or an end?

My older daughter Amanda graduated from high school last Sunday. There were many festivities leading up to the graduation including a graduation party we had the week before (yes, I'm aware of this being like opening your Christmas presents on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas day), my younger daughter Courtney going off to summer camp in Maine, and, of course, the gala known as the prom.

Full disclosure, I am not a fan of graduation ceremonies but I am a huge fan of accomplishments. I didn't enjoy my high school graduation ceremony. My mother went back to college while I was in college and I didn't go to her graduation ceremony. She threatened that if I didn't go to my college graduation, I wouldn't have a place to live afterwards so I did. There was no way in hell I was going to my grad school graduation and I have never regretted that decision.

My daughter, though, seemed very happy through all the weekend's events from the pre-pre-prom picture session to the post graduation parties.

While listening to the many speeches given during the ceremony itself, I first felt there was not enough celebrating the milestone. Many speeches focused on the future. There seemed to be a canned phrase of "going to college, entering the workforce, or joining the military" as the next steps for the graduates. The advice on how to be successful in the "real world" seemed to me as comical in it's naivety - these are 17 and 18 year olds that have never seen the real world. Many adults, including yours truly, don't know how to be successful in the real world. It is hard.

But graduating high school is an accomplishment. I'm proud of my daughter for this accomplishment. I'm prouder for what I think she is going to accomplish in the future. That journey is just beginning, not ending with this ceremony. I view the ceremony as the starting line for the next phase in her life. My advice to her and her classmates, enjoy the ride.

PS: Monday I  paid my first college tuition bill. There might have been a tear in my eye then.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Writing an obituary.

"Rich Arcuri passed away last weekend from a work related accident on the day before his 50th birthday. He was a good man."

I always sucked at writing so I tried to avoid many (any?) of the writing classes through high school, college, and beyond. By avoiding those classes, I avoided many of the classic writing assignments. One of these classics I avoided was to write an obituary.

I found out last Saturday that Rich Arcuri passed away. I knew Rich through his brother Frank who trains with me from time to time and holds the dubious and distinctive honor of dubbing me "The Rock Star." I've met Rich, the other Arcuri brothers, and many members of their family through Team in Training and many other endurance sports training sessions and races. I consider Frank a friend but only really knew Rich, his younger brother, more as an acquaintance.

My wife and I went to the wake last night. When we got there we saw a line of mourners out the door of the funeral home and wrapped around the perimeter of the parking lot. We joined at the end of the line and, as we waited to go in to pay our respects, we talked with many people from different aspects of our own life that Rich touched. We had no idea how some of them knew Rich and they didn't know how we knew him. Some we talked to were on line waiting to get in, some were exiting, others were in the parking lot just talking in small groups as inside the funeral home was full beyond capacity. My wife and I originally expected to just "stop by" but wound up being there a few hours, most of the time in the parking lot catching up with other mourners. Even so, we weren't able to talk with all the people we wanted to. There just wasn't enough time. There never is for things like this.

Rich was a father. He was a husband. He was a brother. He was an uncle. He was a coach. He was an athlete who finished over 40 marathons. He raised a ton of money for charity. He was a friend. I believe the most important thing about Rich that everyone who knew him knows was that he was loved.When I spoke with Frank he summed up his brother perfectly when he said, "he was a good man."

Sometimes a slant on the traditional obituary writing assignment is not to just write an obituary, but to write your own, or at least what you think your obituary should be. When I read Rich's official obituary in the newspaper, I pondered what mine might say. Writing a hypothetical obituary as part of a writing assignment is very different from writing a real one that celebrates a person's life while at the same time mourns his passing. I hope when mine ultimately gets written I would be considered "a good man" like so many considered Rich. 

Rest in peace.











Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"We don't aspire to be the low cost alternative."

My daughter Amanda is graduating high school this week with a very impressive high school resume. While her school does not report class rank, we are guessing that she was 7th in her class of just under 400. Her weighted GPA was over 100. Her SAT score was in the top 1%. She earned 13 varsity letters and was a 6 time captain.  She was named to the all New York state string orchestra on violin and was also named to the ASTA National High Honors Orchestra. She has won every music honor awarded by our school district and has been described as debatably the most decorated musician in school history. She has made me and my wife very proud. After a very stressful few months on picking a college, she has decided to continue her studies at Duke University this fall.

Every school determined that we were not going to qualify for need based aid so our only option was merit aid. She found Duke most appealing although other schools offered her much more attractive merit packages with a couple even offering full scholarships. During a recent visit to Duke we scheduled a conversation with the financial aid office. They told us there was no merit options available for her. I explained that Amanda had full ride merit offers and we were still considered those offers. The financial aid officer said "we don't aspire to be the low cost alternative." I guess she had that conversation before with other parents.

Today we got the tuition bill. Luckily we've been saving for a long time and should be able to pay it. I sure hope that Duke will be worth what we are paying. Only time will tell.

Speaking of time, my younger daughter Courtney just completed the 10th grade. She is a very impressive student in her own right. I know I'm not looking forward to paying two college tuition bills in a couple of years. Somehow I'm sure we won't be looking for the "low cost alternative" for Courtney either.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why blog?

I was in London last week at an off site planning event for work. One of the sessions in this event had to do with the use of an internal social media platform. The theme of this session was that management (aka me and my peers) should take advantage of the capabilities of this platform and blog.

As seemingly always, I had strong opinions on this topic. I felt that I had some experience in this area having written hundreds of blog entries as part of this "world class" triathlon blog.  No one in the event knew of my alternate persona and my mis-adventures in the world of endurance sports. When I explained this many, if not all, were surprised. They were surprised I guess first because of just someone talking about a blog wasn't a traditional topic of conversation but mostly because my physical state does not reflect a typical endurance athlete. Some of my peers tried to find my blog and a few of them were even successful. It was commented that my physical appearance currently vs. my physical appearance in the blog were dramatically different. This difference was not in the positive direction.

I also realized that my blogging has been infrequent at best lately. I thought about this a bit and was wondering if I wasn't blogging because I generally was unmotivated or could blogging more frequently actually translate into increased motivation. Motivation to improve my body composition. Motivation to lose weight. Motivation to get back into shape. Motivation to start somewhere.

I thought of a few decent blog topics to craft so decided I'm going to give this more focus for the summer. There may be less endurance stuff and more life stuff for a while but the mix could change over time. So the answer to "why blog" for me at this time could be "motivation." I know that many of my former followers have changed their social media platform of choice to Instagram or Facebook or Twitter (I'm in many of them too) and not everyone who followed me in the past still are members of the blogosphere. Let's find out who is still there and if this experiment could work.

Game on.




Monday, April 14, 2014

Beiber, musicals and allergies

Last week I was in Miami for a work thing. I won't bore you with the details except that we were in a nice hotel and vendors were sucking up to me. At the beginning of our first meeting, it was announced that Justin Bieber had rented the whole penthouse floor of our hotel so that's why there was a pack of 14 year old girls at the end of the entrance driveway into the hotel cheering as every car arrived. I didn't notice this (perhaps because I'm used to adoration) and I never ran into any of Bieber's entourage although others in my meeting did. I'm still be proud of the fact that I've never consciously listened to any of his songs.

The net of this trip with the 80 degree temperatures, on the beach, with people running on a trail was that I was psyched to exercise when I came home. I nailed a bike workout on Saturday and Sunday I had riding 1:45 on the plan. I woke up a little tired from the first real workout in a while but was going to ride in the afternoon after it warmed up a bit. My wife then told be that she went online and saw available 3rd row tickets to see Les Mis on Broadway that afternoon. There were two seats available.

I hate Les Mis. I believe it is painful to sit through most musicals and Les Mis is one of the worst. She offered to take my youngest daughter instead of me (my older one had a rehearsal herself). Deal! They bought the tickets.

I did my ride, very casually, coasting way too much. There was no rush to get home since the rest of the family was at the play. But this weekend was riding outside as compared to inside at spin classes. The only downside was that it seemed that all seasonal allergies took hold and I'm paying that price now.

I have only one spin class left in my prepaid pack. Maybe I'll use it later this week since the weather is supposed to be bad. There is something wrong with snow in the forecast in April. Sure hope, if I go, there are no Bieber songs at this spin class. Would a Les Mis song be worse? Maybe, maybe not.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Frozen: Top 5 of all Disney movies?

Before the family and I went to Disney World last week, my girls wanted to watch Frozen. They saw it first without me and said it was soooooooo good that even I would like it. So we watched it as a family. Again, for them. First time, for me.

I thought it was OK, just OK. It followed the Disney recipe of somebody dies, turmoil, bad guy loses, cute side kick, resolution of good guy wins, happy ever after, etc.

Both my teenagers said that they thought that Frozen was a top five Disney movie of all time, perhaps even top 3. They asked what I thought.

My first thought was that I obviously have failed as a parent.

Top3? Top5? What are they, nuts? The look of utter amazement on my face gave away my thoughts. Then I then asked which were better.

Having watched Disney movies thousands of times while my kids were younger, I knew Lion King was an easy first choice to be king. The Little Mermaid was part of this world.  I said Fantasia had to be included even though it included the featured the song that all double bassoon players strive to master (both of my children are classical string instrument musicians and have an overt bias against wind instruments). They said they never saw Fantasia. I think I heard Maestro Stokowski conduct a collective groan from the Philadelphia Orchestra.

I asked them what movie, in their mind, competed with Frozen. They agreed with the Lion King and said Mulan was up there too. MULAN? I took a deep breadth, sighed, and said what about the classics: Snow White, Dumbo, Cinderella, and the like. There could be some debate on the Pixar flicks on if they count or not but I put The Incredibles, Toy Story 1 and 2, and Up ahead of Frozen. Their retort was Bugs Life.

I then asked them to get real here. You needed story, songs, etc. They wouldn't admit they were wrong. Frozen. Sigh. They want me to watch it again. And probably again after that. They kept saying Elphaba (Idina Menzel) was a great singer. They kept humming and singing "Do You Want to Make a Snow Man."

So, what say ye? What are your top 5? How do I fix my kids?


PS: While at Disney it was fun to get the Disney "cast members" to make a choice in this debate. Lots of religion in Lake Buena Vista.




Sunday, February 16, 2014

Shoe comfort

I have Sasquatch feet. Most of my conventional shoes are american sized 14 with various designations for wide: 4E, XW, or whatever. Sometimes getting non conventional shoes turn into a challenge and cycling shoes fall right into the middle of this challenge but I've generally been successful with some shoes more comfortable than others.

My least comfortable shoes were my mountain bike shoes. They are sized 48 Wide and look like the picture. The spin classes that I've been taking recently require either SPD or Look compatible cleats. My tri and road cycle shoes match my pedals but they are Speed Play since I get the extra long pedal spindles for comfort. So I've been wearing my Specialized mountain bike shoes with the SPDs. The biggest problem is that these shoes have a racheting strap for closure and it seems like my foot is too high for comfort. I felt it was the best I could get given my foot challenges.

I was mindlessly surfing the web and found an extra long strap specifically for these shoes. I ordered them hoping beyond hope and found that with the longer strap, these are now comfortable.

Celebrating these little things like this makes me happy.

Also, I now have one less excuse to avoid these classes so I might need to increase my class attendance frequency from 2x a week to 3x a week.  Better would be to ride outside but there is still about a foot of snow on most of the ground covering up what looks like a world class collection of potholes. That being said, most of the bike clubs are targeting group rides starting on March 1 for the early season centuries. Maybe I should train for and potentially do one since if I could knock out a hundred I'm probably not in as bad shape as I think I am.

At least these shoes are comfortable now.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Different Type of Spin Class

I've been taking a lot of Soul Cycle spin classes lately. What is Soul Cycle you ask? Well, I describe it as the scene in Wayne's World where they are singing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and bopping their heads but on spin bikes. At high cadence. With a bunch of twenty something yuppies and a few, very few, post child rearing aged fogies. In the dark. With candles. And incense. Listening to blasting techno music you mostly never heard of. Except the requisite Beyonce' song. Where you take a break by using weights. Embarrassed by using only 1 pound dumb bells because the others are just too heavy. Did I say the classes were expensive? They are located in only the seemingly rich areas of New York metro and California (I have to drive a bit). The parking lot has too many Porsches and Land Rovers. They aren't mine.

So, why am I doing it? Although there are all sorts of challenges in social media about problems snagging a bike due to the demand, the class times that work for me (very late or very early) don't seem to have that issue. It gets me out of the house since I have to basically pay in advance and I'm so cheap I would dread to lose the money. The weather has sucked recently so it gets me some exercise. Some, not a lot. Not enough for a 70.3. But more than none.

I'm almost able to do all the choreography, yes choreography is included. The teachers are not taking as much pity on the old fat guy in the back row as they did before. The weather must be changing soon so I can ride outside. It better.