Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My new bike

My new bike is here! I think these pictures could count as bike porn (a term that I credit to Big Daddy Diesel) and I may need a cool name for my new bike like Mel came up with for her new wheels ("The Animal"). Here it is:

Specialized S-Works Transition, SRAM Red, Zipp 808/404 MAX racewheels, Quarq Cinqo power meter, Speedplay pedals, Profile Design CobraWing base bar with T-mag aerobars.

I joked with one of my friends that they must have wanted it out of the bike shop since they were spending so much time cleaning up the drool that was on the floor near it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A New Month Resolution

Rockstar Research has found an 88% failure rate for the general public's New Year's resolutions. I believe, though, that success rates for goals are higher (or lower percentages) and that there is a big difference between a goal and a resolution. I define goals as having concrete, measurable results that are very objective to measure success (or failure) while resolutions are much more subjective. Resolutions are softer and less tangible. There will be fails in resolutions that are OK but over time resolutions will change behavior, hopefully for the better.

I'm sure that there are a bunch of reasons why people's resolutions fail despite their most noble of intentions. Maybe the resolutions are too lofty. It is difficult to dramatically change behavior that quickly, cold turkey stories aside. Maybe they are not defined right, slipping into the goal category instead. Maybe it is just as simple that in order for a resolution to have significance, it is probably hard.

I don't normally set resolutions but I've decided to set a couple. I'm not going to set them for the length of a year but instead I figured if I started with a few resolutions for just the month of January (a new month resolution) I can see improvement and adjust if necessary.

The two I've decided on for January are:
  1. Reduce the amount of soda I drink. I am a soda-holic for lack of a better term. I mostly drink diet, caffeine free soda but I drink a lot of it. I've been known on some days to have soda during breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between. For January, I'd like to get to the point that some days I don't drink soda at all and other days to just have it with one meal. I'll replace the soda with something healthier - the favorites going in are water, iced tea, or an occasional fruit juice.
  2. Increase my strength and flexibility. I do not consider myself physically strong. I started Lisa's sponsored 100 pushup challenge two weeks ago and I'm progressing but slowly (I didn't start week three of the program but went back to week one, column 2 instead of column 1) . I want to continue this program to the conclusion of doing the hundred. I know I might not get there by the end of January but I also want to continue my flexibility program (now called physical therapy for my ITB issues) by introducing some sort of regular flexibility activities.

That's it. Two resolutions. I do have a whole bunch of goals in addition to these resolutions that I'll post within the week but the resolutions are set..... at least for the first month.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sugoi Brand Champion

I recently received an email that started:

Our SUGOI team has reviewed your application and would like to inform you that you have been accepted as a SUGOI Brand Champion! We believe that you will be a great ambassador of SUGOI and will make us proud in your athletic and personal endeavors. You are an incredible individual, and SUGOI is dedicated to making incredible apparel. We think you’ll agree that together, we make a great pair.

What is most cool about this is that I use a lot of Sugoi stuff already. I belong to 3 triathlon teams, all use Sugoi for their custom uniforms. Almost all of my tri shorts happen to already be made by Sugoi and my favorite piece of workout clothing is my Sugoi custom Team-in-Training RS Cycling jacket (I don't think RS stands for Rock Star but then again, it might).

One of the unexpected by products of losing weight is that since old clothes some how magically stop fitting, I expect to turn over most of my workout clothes this year. I'll let you know which works best for me as the journey continues.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

That's what Christmas is all about

"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid ... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord."

"And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men."

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."- Linus Van Pelt

My daughter Courtney was very excited that she found this ornament and gave to me as an early Christmas present. Every time I see it I'm sure I'll remember her excitement. Although she didn't recite Luke like Linus does, this is also what Christmas is all about.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A marathon deal?

I registered for the upcoming Disney Marathon through Team-in-Training. I thought about signing up for the marathon outside of TNT but I've done a bunch of events with them and figured I might as well add one to the resume (I'm normally really good at fundraising but that's a story for another day). I don't really follow their training program (instead following the sage advice of CoachBikeMike) but I try to use the team's workouts as ways to get company for my long runs. Of course, this was when I was actually doing long runs.

After I hurt my knee and it didn't get better, I wondered if I could switch from the Disney Full Marathon to the Disney Half Marathon held on the same weekend. I figured there was no way that I could finish "the Full" unless I wrecked myself physically due to a lack of training. ("The Full" is unknown territory for me since I've never even started one before. Last year I signed up for Philly26.2 and bailed since hurt my left leg. This year my NYC26.2 dream was cut short by a rude encounter with a Honda CR-V while riding my bike but I've beaten that story to death). The official Disney policy is that no changes are possible but I reached out to the TNT folks hoping for special dispensation. After they checked, the answer back was sorry, but no.

Oh well, I gave it a shot. I planned on going down to Florida anyway with the Mrs., enjoy the weekend, and maybe do a little running if I'm up to it (rumor has it that it isn't snowy and cold there). There was no imperative to run and since I haven't run in about a month, I was expecting to, at best, jog a few miles to earn the swag before being rescued.

Today the phone rang and TNT let me know that they were able to make the switch! It may take a while to show up on the website but I am now registered for "The Half" instead.

Holy mixed emotions, Batman. A deal? Yes, a deal.

If I can run at all, I think I can finish the half. I may have to walk a bit of it (OK, maybe more than a bit) but there is no backing out now. I'm not going to hurt myself but most half marathon training plans call for a little more than 2 weeks of actually running. Running outside in NY is still a bit of a challenge due to the amount of snow still on the ground (let alone seeing what my knee will actually let me do). I adjusted my mindset that this is, at best, a "C" priority race and I don't care at all about my finishing time (well maybe I care a little but not anywhere near the normal amount of race psychosis).

The slow journey continues....

PS: The maladies continued with the cough adding on a runny nose. The snot factory kept me up all night even though I tried the OTC medicine roulette so I broke down and saw the doctor. He gave me real drugs to cure my bronchitis and sinusitis and I'm hoping for the drugs to kick in any minute now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Maladay de jour

***Beware: Whining below ****

I hate being sick.

Even worse than being sick is when you are not "all the way" sick - just not right. That means you think you can do what you want until you try it. Then you find out you can't.

Even worse than not "all the way sick" is when it sort of moves around. On Friday night I felt as though an alien was trying to climb through my skin from the inside out. It got better with a case of the pukies and I blamed it on some bad burgers I cooked up. Saturday was a tummy recovery day but most of Sunday I had a headache that I felt in my toes. Monday I started coughing. Today is even more coughing.

Did I say I hate being sick? If not,let me say I hate being sick. I. Hate. Being. Sick.

I'm still going about my day to day though. I bailed on the workouts over the weekend but did squeeze in the push ups, the PT stretches, and even a mini swim last night. Oh, and by the way we had 14" of snow that I luckily got my slow blower back from the shop just in time to do three driveways (mine and we helped out some of the older folks that live down the block).

So I'm not helpless. No need to write the obituary yet. I'm not even sick enough to see the doctor but I keep dreaming of comfort foods and my will power is low. I might even try to ride the bike on the trainer for a while. Might wind up taking a nap instead though.

I hate being sick.

*** End of whining ***

Friday, December 18, 2009

How a weigh-in is like a threshold test.

The other night I did my first threshold test of the season on the bike. Even though it wasn't listed in the training plan as one or officially even called a threshold test, it sure looked and felt like one. I really haven't done any type of threshold testing since before my accident so I was a little concerned that I would overshoot the effort and wouldn't be able to complete it or undershoot the effort leaving too much in the tank. On a threshold test, you want to "baby bear" it (not too hard, not too easy, just right.....) and just right normally means that at some point you are breathing so hard that you contemplate trying to breathe through your eye lids to see if that works. Note: it doesn't.

The script of this test was to, after a warm up and a L2ish interval with the bike on the trainer, "give hard a try" for 20 minutes. In the good ole days my functional threshold power (FTP) was somewhere north of 280 watts but that seemed like eons ago and it wasn't in the so called off-season. I figured I would start at about 250 watts, see how I felt, and ramp it up a little at a time until there was nothing left. The "test" went according to plan (except the side stitch at 17 minutes) and after the magic of a power file analysis, WKO spit out my normalized power for this test as 260 watts. I was not unhappy with this number since it was still well above where I was last year at this time and in the range that I expected it to be at this time.

This morning I stepped on the scale at Weight Watchers and the number, while not where I wanted it to be, was also in the not unhappy range. I haven't been to WeWa in a while and was glad that I went. The number was down from the last time (the old ladies that work the scale got all excited) and a single pound above my low of 2009 (again right before my accident). They gave me the new 2010 Weight Watchers log book to track my weight for the upcoming year.

Both of these "tests" have provided me with numbers that will act as baselines going forward and both were in the not unhappy range. These two tests got me thinking about what's going to happen in 2010. Now that I have some baselines, I need to formulate some goals since I'll be doing these types of tests somewhat frequently and I know that goals will help me focus on succeeding. But what is succeeding? I figured that these areas, while interesting and can be used for motivation, ultimately are second class goals for me. What I mean by that is that they show progress and warrant focus but there are other goals (like actual race performances and other less tangible stuff) that will trump the weight loss and power numbers. These other goals will be what defines "succeeding."

What are they? Stay tuned. I'll publish them next week.

PS: I realized, after the fact, that while I was doing the threshold test I wasn't thinking about my injuries or my recovery. This may be the biggest threshold that I broke through.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Training update

I haven't blogged about actual training for a while now but there has been some (not a lot) of that on the Rock Star daily agenda. The reality of not being able to complete the Disney Marathon in less than a month is becoming more and more obvious since most marathon training plans don't include weeks of not running. I haven't been a complete slug but even if a miracle happens, finishing Disney isn't looking promising. But there may be other options.

I've traded running for 3x/week PT sessions to try to cure this ITB problem. Part of this rehab plan is to include 2-a-days of the individual stretching and exercises as well. I wish that I could report that this is helping my knee but I'd be lying as I still feel pain without doing anything specific (the evil side of my brain keeps thinking that these exercises are causing the pain but I need to control the evil side by letting the stupid side of my brain take over.) The rest of me is feeling improvement in flexibility and strength so this, even if I need to find something else to cure my knee (stop evil side, stop), has been beneficial. Sunday was three weeks without running and today is two weeks of physical therapy.

Since I'm already flopping around on the floor with these exercises, I've decided to take up Lisa from Chasin' Bunnies's Push up challenge and mix that in on the morning sessions on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Today was the second day of week one and I hope these should only add a few minutes a day - let's see how I do!

Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are swim days. I'm slowly increasing the time I can swim and I'm up to swimming 20 minutes sessions (not continuously yet) without issue from my ribs. This is a positive sign and if I continue to improve I may be able to try a masters class again in January with the expectation and hope of survival.

I have three bikes in the bike store (yes, some may say I have a bike problem): the old one that was crashed, the new one still awaiting some parts for RockStar customization, and my Guru titanium road bike. The hope is to salvage some of the parts from my shattered tri bike (it was all high end, all Dura-Ace) and upgrade my road bike (which was Ultegra). Many of the parts are not salvageable but some may be. Once the pieces are put back together again pictures will be posted - especially the bike porn of the new Transition S-Works. Since my mechanical skills top out at changing a flat, this effort is in the trusted hands of the bike shop crew.

Fortunately I have yet another road bike which I have been riding (maybe I do have a problem - we're not even going to talk about my Mountain bike ). Most of my rides have been on the trainer but even so Training Peaks reports I've done about 125 miles in the past 2 weeks. This has all been at a L1/L2 intensity but the Rockstar rehab plan says to "give hard a try" tonight. Yikes.

So, what to do about Disney? My wife and I decided on flying down anyway. The hotel is booked. The flights are booked and we'll make it into a kid-less mini vacation. If I can run more than 5 miles without pain, I may start the race anyway and bail early, using it as a typical training run. Even though that may not be enough to "earn" the shirt and swag, I'm still going to get the Fred Flintstone steak from Shula's afterwards, pair it with a bottle of red, and chase it with some sort of chocolate cake.

Yabadaba do!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas tunes.

Rockstar Research has found that most Christmas songs, at best, suck. Wait a minute, hear me out before you reflexively dub me Scrooge McGrinch or something like that. The other thing I've found is that many so-called Christmas songs don't really have anything to do with the actual meaning of the Christmas holiday but that is rant for another day. If you don't believe me, what does Frosty the Snow Man, Jingle Bells, Sleigh Ride, etc. have to do with the holiday? But I digress....

There are a few gems, though, that are worthy of a listen or two. Dominick the Donkey ain't one of them and I think the limit on listening to the dogs barking Jingle Bells is once per year. The Dr. Demento Christmas album (I'm showing my age now with the "A" word) gets you thinking and chuckling a bit but, and I know this concept may be controversial, there are actual Christmas songs are enjoyable to listen to. So without further ado and open for revision and recommendation, the official and basically unscientific list:
  • Kenny Loggins' "Celebrate Me Home."
  • Vince Guaraldi's "O Tannenbaum" from A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack.
  • Barenaked Ladies' "Elf's Lament."
  • Dan Fogelberg's "Same Old Lang Syne."
  • Faith Hill's "Where are you Christmas."
  • Brian Setzer's "Dig that Crazy Santa Claus."
  • James Taylor's "Deck the Halls."
  • Eagles' "Please Come Home For Christmas."
  • Sting's "Soul Cake."

I'm sure there are more songs that could make the cut. I'm still searching (especially for a RockStar Research approved version of "What Child is This?" or "The First Noel") but for every potentially good song/version you have to listen to the Grandma getting run over again or "Chipmunk Song" five times. Now if it was the Chipmunk's remix of Funky Town from their movie soundtrack that might be a different story...

'Tis the season. Fa la la la la, parump a pum pum.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Signs of resizing

I've been working on my body composition for some time now. The scale really hasn't been my friend lately (but it hasn't been my enemy either though - sort of detente perhaps). The lowest scale reading (PR?) was right before my accident and it has been in a narrow range slightly above that magic number since then. On one hand I look at that as not great but rationalize that since my training volume has gone down it isn't that bad. On the other hand, the accident was three months ago and I'm getting frustrated.

Yes, I do take a few liberties with the rigidity of the diet (OK, maybe more than a few at times) but I've recently renewed this as focus item. I'm feeling body composition changes but needed an objective sign since I'm not getting it from the scale. Fortuntely, I've recently got a couple of them.

The first sign was that my jeans were loose even though they were a 36" waist. I went to the store (in this case Costco) and got a pair of 34s to try on. I wore 34s in high school (yes they had jeans back then) and remember that there was one fleeting moment later in life when 34s were my size (for reference when I started this weight loss/active journey I was growing out of my 44s) . I figured if they didn't fit now I would put them somewhere that I would continually see them for use as body composition motivation. This plan won't work BECAUSE THEY FIT NOW! Yes, there is a little muffin top going on but I've had that since it was called Dunlap's disease (my belly has "done laps" over my belt). Let's see if they still fit after they go through the wash cycle but I view these new jeans fitting as a good sign. The picture above is of the actual jeans.

The second sign was I felt that my wedding ring was getting looser and looser. I didn't want for it to fall off and get lost. I've worn this ring 16 years and never had to resize it up or down. The jeweler looked at it, measured me, and figured the ring should go down 1 whole size! The ring just came back and although it felt a little tight, the smaller size fit.

Good signs, yes. Progress, yes. Now we just need to end detente to get that scale working the right way and keep it going that way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What's in your car?

I went to clean out my car and found the following in it:
  • One cycling coat.
  • Two pairs of gloves.
  • One gym bag with swim stuff in it (fins, goggles, wet towel, wet suit, lock, defogging drops [that have never worked for me])
  • One gym bag with clean running stuff in it (shorts, shirt, socks, sneakers, hat)
  • One winter running hat.
  • One pair of sweatpants.
  • One race belt (new).
  • Three running hats (Headsweats).
  • One chocolate chip mini clif bar.
  • Two Vanilla Bean Gus (unopened).
  • One "Triathlete" magazine.
  • Two "Bicycling" magazines.
  • Three empty water bottles.
  • One empty hand water flask.
  • One bicycle helmet.
  • One tire pump
  • One pair cycling road shoes
  • One pair cycling sunglasses
Rockstar research has found that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their car so what does this tell about me ( in addition to that I needed to clean out my car - which I did)?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ironman Syracuse 70.3

The RockstarTri 2010 A+B priority race calendar is complete. Today I registered for Syracuse 70.3, a new half ironman being held in upstate New York (about 5 hours from Casa Rockstar).

Originally I wasn't going to do this race. The first reason that I was skipping this race is that 2010 will be the inaugural running and I figured the logistics could still need "refinement." The second reason was that the bike course is rumored to be extra difficult. Although I consider myself generally a strong rider, hills are my main nemesis (due to my size) and most of this course is supposed to be hilly.

So, what changed?

Many of my friends are doing this race and I like to train and race with friends. As part of my sabbatical, I realized that this race could be considered a success if I do not blow myself up on the bike so I am going to go into this race with no overall finish time expectations. The criteria for success for me will be to have a strong swim, a controlled bike, and a strong run. This will see if I can follow a plan and if the lessons from last year's Timberman were actually learned. I got BikeMike's blessing, found a $50 off coupon, and pulled the trigger.

The calendar looks good and I'm excited about 2010!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Retail Fail: A Cautionary Tale

In the town next to mine there used to be a Weight Watchers store front. I seem to recall that at some point this was one of the higher functioning WW outposts. They had men's only meetings, teen support groups, as well as all of the traditional WW support meetings and food offerings.

Then Cold Stone Creamery opened next door to WW. For those who haven't experienced Cold Stone, it is a high end ice cream parlor where they mix in all sorts of unhealthy stuff to their ice cream. I'm not even an ice cream aficionado but realize greatness when I taste it.

I guess it was just a matter of time. WW put up a valiant effort but I figure temptation got the best of most of the WW faithful and they eventually closed the branch. Although there may have been reasons other than Cold Stone being next door that caused it to close, I'm thinking this was an atypical apple in Eden type of deal. Perhaps it was that the rent was going up since there was much more foot traffic due to the "neighbors." Perhaps it was due to an over saturation of WW offices. Perhaps it was due in part to the economic slow down I thought about calling the WW corporate offices but though it would be like putting salt in an open wound.

But it got worse. In the empty store that used to be WW, they opened a Five Guys Burgers and Fries. If you had a SAT question of ice cream is to Cold Stone as burgers is to what, the answer in many geographic regions would be Five Guys. The retail fail was complete.

But this story doesn't end here. If we go in another direction from my town, there is a Jenny Craig outlet. Next door they just opened a Krispy Kreme. Krispy Kreme had a false start in this area and closed almost all of their donut shops. They retreated and decided on this location as the best place to start again. Even my 11 year old daughter Courtney pointed out that Jenny is in jeopardy.

Beware Jenny, beware. Fight that fight and when the hot donut light goes on, don't think of burgers, shakes and fries because you know what could happen.

Ask the Weight Watcher alums.

PS: Although this is supposed to be body composition Thursday, I haven't gone back on the scale after my "sabbatical" but that is coming soon. I only went to Five Guys once during this time, didn't go to a WeWa meeting and never even entered the parking lot for Krispy Kreme.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sabbatical over: What have I learned?

I've gone through a lot of introspection over the last few weeks focusing on what I am currently and what I aspire to be. I think this was a valuable exercise in that I learned some things about myself. Most weren't a surprise but taking a look at myself helped me focus for the near term. In summary what I've found:

My physical state:

My broken rib doesn't hurt all the time but it doesn't not hurt all the time either. Most of the time I feel the broken rib while lying in bed, trying to sleep. In theory it should be cured by now. I'm afraid though that this may be "cured" and the new normal. It is something that I'll just have to accept and move on. Yes, it sucks but there aren't any options other than let time do it's thing. Yes again, patience is not a strength of mine.

More bothersome is the clicking I have in my ribs. I won't bore you with the official "syndrome" name but it is more annoying than painful. It gets even more annoying, though, when they click on almost every breath. In and out. I'm told this may go away but then again it also may not. If it doesn't, most people that have it just get used to it.

Rest didn't cure my right knee so I broke down and saw a doctor about it. His diagnosis was ITB tendinitis, a common running injury. He also commented that my legs were very, very tight (especially my hammies) and that a flexibility program is necessary to prevent me from getting hurt. He set me up with physical therapy to help. I've also gotten some books (including TriPower) to set this up. This, along with weight loss, needs to be my top priority. Yes, I've heard that song before but now I need to dance the dance.

Rest did cure my left calf muscle pain. I believe that I hurt it by compensating for the rest of my aches and pains. I'm also getting new orthotics since my right one recently cracked. Coincidence? I don't know, but new ones won't hurt.

The doctore recommended to not start running until I am pain free during the day and then to ease into it. This means Disney 26.2 is in jeopardy. Not all that happy about it but this race isn't my "A+" race for 2010 ("A+" is Eagleman70.3).

My mental state (as it relates "to athletic" endeavors):

I tried to figure out why I put myself through this training and figured out the benefits do outweigh the draw backs. Of course, I like certain things about it more than others and dislike some less than others - if you know what I mean.

I may never come in first but I can still "win" if I define winning the right way. That means that every race doesn't need to be a PR and I can still "succeed" if I focus on stuff a little differently. I am, by nature, very goal oriented so I need to make sure my goals make sense given where I am physically and mentally.

There are a whole lot of other things that I'll get into in future blog posts such as why I like biking the most of of all the many triathlon disciplines (swimming, biking, running, eating, drinking, stretching, strengthening, etc), why I like training with training buddies rather than alone and the challenges with that since I'm slow, why I need to hate being slow less but enough to continue to strive for improvement, and, most of all, why the support of my family in this sometime crazy adventure makes the journey all that more enjoyable.

Game on.