Monday, July 30, 2012

Chicken or Egg?

I've recently been wondering if my weight gain, lack of desire for training, generally sub par performance, medical issues and declining fitness level is the result of not enjoying my training or is it that because I am not enjoying my training, all of these other things are happening. In other words, a classic chicken and egg quandary. There could be some debate on the medical side of the house but could it have been that my iron fitness masked these issues but now that my fitness has declined these issues that have always been there are now more impactful?

My wife has mentioned it is obvious that I am not enjoying training. It seem more that I am "having" to do versus "getting" to do it. Since I "have" to do it, I can't remember the last time I was proud of a training session. My power numbers are low. My endurance is low. Since all this training does, in fact, have an impact on my family's life, there is a cost associated with this. If I don't enjoy it, could that cost be reinvested elsewhere with more return?

I recently went on vacation now with my extended family. We go to the same place in the north end of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. I brought my bike since the riding in the mountains, although hard, I typically consider fun. I also brought running clothes even though running is rarely considered fun for me. The weather was not cooperating with thunder and lightening storms for the past few days. I was woken up by thunder at about 5:30am Sunday morning. I tried to sleep in but couldn't. Since breakfast started at 8AM I decided to go out on the porch, read a book, and watch the storm until pancake time. This was about 7AM and the storm, while not as hard as earlier, was still going on.

I saw a runner running towards me on the road alone. In the rain. Drenched. With thunder rumbling. She wasn't running very fast but she was getting it done. Then I realized it was my sister. She was completing her 3 mile morning run to get it done before breakfast. I was sitting in a chair reading a paperback.

After breakfast, my daughter appeared in her running clothes and said she wanted to go run. While the sky was still very dark, the rain was slowing. I asked if she wanted me to rescue her if the storm really kicked up a but. She said no. I think she was running more to clear her mind more than anything else and since she runs much faster than I do, I let her go without me. I kept reading my book.

I would be a much better story if I then said the hell with it and went for a run. There was a time where I would have been that one running in the rain. The one that everyone said was crazy. I might have complained about it the whole time but deep down I probably would be enjoying it, at least a little. At the end, I would have been glad I did it. But that isn't me now. I thought more about why that is (or is not) and realized a few things.

I'm not ready to give up on this. I know what I've lost. I want it back. I need to do something different.

There needs to be some changes in the blog. I find that the happier I am, the more I blog. Chicken or egg? I don't know but let's see.

There needs to be some changes in my training. I need to change the focus because what I doing now is not working.

There will be some changes in my eating habits. That is the biggest issue I have in more ways than one. I've found that my food choices are now about as bad as possible.

There needs to be some changes in my goals. Defining success clearly is a better way to know if I met it or not. There are two corollaries here: 1) Better being the enemy of good enough; and 2) I don't need to boil the ocean. My Iron man quest took years. Maybe I need a hairy big assed goal to keep me focused.

I am treating this as almost a restart from the beginning. Consider it an egg. Or maybe a chicken. I don't think that anything one thing in particular will fix this but it will be a series of small adjustments. Over time, though, minor adjustments can have a huge impact. Either way, the journey is taking a different route. It won't be a short cut but I'm thinking it will get me to a better place.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Penn State Student Athletes

I think some disclosure is necessary to begin. I am not a college football fan. Yes, I used to watch bowl games on New Years Day when they were on New Years Day but now that there seems to be a bowl game almost every day in December and half of January so I don't really watch them. I have never gone to a college football game in person and the college I attended, Hofstra University, dropped its football program a few years ago. See this link for more details on that.

When Hofstra disbanded its team, the student athletes were made to make choices. They either had to find a new school/team or decide to stay and not play football. Hofstra offered to honor the scholarship commitments to the existing scholarship recipients but the student athletes needed to decide to be either or. I don't know how many decided to stay and how many decided to go but the stress that they were under by this decision that they were forced to make was no fault of their own.

The current Penn State student football players are also in a situation that is no fault of their own. They simply made a decision to attend Penn State or accept a scholarship to PSU that was probably the best decision they could have made with the facts known at that time. Last fall's season probably wasn't the best season to be a Penn State Football player. The future, though, for these athletes will be different. I don't want to predict if that future will be better or worse.

Yes, the players can look for another school. But being able to join a football team at another school doesn't mean that academically these individual students won't pay a cost. I may be naive but some of the student athletes may be actually attending college to get an education rather that using the college football program as an NFL minor league. Some may be going to school to get a degree or, gasp, perhaps learn something to prepare them for the rest of their lives. Most schools do not accept transfers of seniors. Many have degree requirements that could extend their time in college. No, most of these athletes are not going to the NFL. I wonder if the NCAA realized that they were students as well as athletes.

Did the current crop of players do anything wrong related to the cause of the sanctions? No. What about the players who played on the teams that got their wins vacated? They didn't either. While not to the extent of Sandusky's victims, the current student athletes are victims. I feel sorry for them. Don't know if everyone (or perhaps even anyone) in the NCAA does.

PS: If they had a poll asking which figure was the pedophile do you think more people would pick Paterno or Sandusky. What about in 5 years?

PPS: Wonder if taxpayers need to chip in for the $60MM fine (forget about the other fines from the Big10,etc). After all, it is a state school and I think that some of it is funded by state appropriation from tax dollars . Just a thought.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quote of the week - Clint Eastwood

“Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands.” - Clint Eastwood

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

AG Cheating

I've recently read a couple of articles on cheating in sports. With the Olympics coming up I thought this somewhat expected but this article put it a completely different light:

Why a different light? Because I did that ride (after all it is always about me). First I thought how dare he dope. I wasn't offended that he was stealing a podium spot from me because there was no way ever that I would podium in that race. He did, though, steal it from someone else. But then I thought about it a little more.

This race was very expensive. A portion of the race fees (that I paid) in some manner were paying for these drug tests. I didn't know that they were testing (I wasn't looking for it) but I would have thought it ridiculous that there were testing (in retrospect there were not ridiculous). Apparently they were quite overt in telling everyone that they were testing. I missed it but would have opted out if I could. Not because I dope (I do not) but because I'm cheap. And had low expectations.

What kind of person could do this? A cheater. Who is he cheating? Everyone, but mostly himself. Where would it end?

John Post put out a good blog before I saw the other article as well with some interesting examples. it can be found here: In it he quotes John McGuire USN, "If you'll cheat yourself, who won't you cheat?"

Put in a different perspective: Would you hire a person like this? Would you like to work with them? For them? Would you like to train with them? Would you like to race against them?

Yes, people can make mistakes. People can be forgiven. But if it was me I wouldn't be able to forgive myself. That's probably why I don't and wouldn't cheat.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Open Water Swim, really.

Today I swam in Oyster Bay. The significance of that statement will become obvious once the following points are understood:
  • The last time I wore my wet suit was last November. In Florida. Racing IMFL.
  • I haven't been swimming much at all.
  • I have no excuses as to why I haven't been swimming. It is even worse when you realize I have an endless pool. In. My. House.
  • My friend, Mindyruns, sent an email out yesterday asking if anyone was swimming open water this morning. I responded that I would be interested in joining her if she found something. She found a group that was swimming part of the TOBAY sprint tri course. She said to bring a bike since they were going to casually ride the bike course after. Some might even do the run too. (I had no dreams of being in that "some").
  • I woke up early and stayed in bed figuring out how to wimp out.
  • Since I couldn't find any reason (said tri is coming up soon and I'm registered) I started looking for all my swimming stuff.
  • My stuff was where I expected it to be. Victory or another reason to not swim avoided?
  • Put the bike in the car too and headed to the meeting place. Got there and there were about 20 people.
  • The bay was relatively calm.
  • Put on my wet suit. Even though I'm fat I'm not so fat that my wet suit didn't fit. Another victory.
  • Jumped in the water. Realized salt water still tastes the same. my goal was to swim slow to make sure I didn't have breathing issues - the weather was just about perfect with air temps in the 60s and water temps in the mid 70s.
  • I started in the back. After what seemed a long while, my arms were getting tired. This long while was a whole 5 minutes per my watch.
  • Swam a little more to a sign that said 5 mph speed limit. Turned around and headed back. I had no issue making sure I was not swimming faster than 5 mph.
  • Got out and deemed it a success swimming a monstrous 20 minutes.
  • Got on my bike and rode most of the course.
There were no breathing issues so I guess I can swim more. I celebrated by taking a nap when I got home.

PS: Later Mindyruns emailed me that she found out that the beach was officially closed due to high bacteria levels. Oh well, this could have been a real excuse but I blew it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quote of the week - Martin Luther King Jr.

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Medical Update

About a month ago I had a fail during the Harpoon Brewery to Brewery ride which caused me to DNF at about 50 miles in. You can read about it here. Unfortunately this medical story didn't end at the race.

In the weeks after the ride, my breathing got worse. I was coughing more and more and couldn't really train with any intensity. Then it got to be where I was having breathing issues just in my normal day to day activities. Even going up a few flights of stairs turned into an issue. Although I hated to do it, I made an appointment with my doctor.

As a kid I had bad asthma. Most of the time it was allergy induced but as a grown up, by virtue of my training, my breathing ability was better than most. The doctor saw me struggling doing almost nothing, and immediately put me on a couple of rescue inhalers, He prescribed an antibiotic just in case something other than allergies was causing this. He said since last winter was so mild in the northeast, it has been a brutal allergy season for many. Since I spent a lot of time outside, I probably was exposed to more allergens than I could handle. Once I went over the magic threshold, a bad cycle began with my breathing and I never was able to recover. He hoped the inhalers would break the cycle and suggested to see a pulmonologist for a consult to see what he had to say.

After I took the inhalers, I had immediate relief. Not 100% relief but pretty significant. When I saw the pulmonologist, he did an initial breathing test. It showed that my breathing was probably 75-80% of "normal" which is different than "endurance athlete." He found that the inhalers seemed to have stopped the madness and that I was clearly on the road to recovery. He adjusted the inhalers and recommended that I ease back into training with an additional workout inhaler. He said to "ease" like a normal human being, not like a crazy iron man triathlete type of person. He figured that it would still take me 6-8 weeks to be fully back to where I was before this and that we'll do a full work up then. That'll be my baseline in case something like this happens again. Also, the earlier we catch it, the avoidance of it getting to crisis mode is more likely.

The good news is that I'm on the road to recovery and the prognosis is good. I can start training but need to keep intensity low for a while. I'm not racing Musselman70.3 this weekend (with the lack of recent training there was no chance of success anyway) but hope to race a few sprint tris this season (I have a local one the end of August). NYC26.2 is on the table but the early mileage will be walking, not running.

I realized that you can't take breathing for granted. You don't realize how much you need it until you can't. Luckily I can now so "game on."

Tales from the road.

  1. While in Maine getting gas in the car, I saw a sign in the attached Circle K that all sized fountain drinks were 69 cents. There was only one size cup though.
  2. When I told my kids, D1 commented "Circle K is a real place? I thought it was some sort of historical place from Bill and Ted. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K." I had to bring them there to prove it existed.
  3. I am still a bigger fan of 7Eleven.
  4. I found a 7Eleven in Maine! Brunswick in case you were wondering where.
  5. There is very little air conditioning in Block Island. Most of the time this isn't an issue due to the sea breezes but our hotel had a rooster who announced his presence starting at 5:45AM. I was unable to shoot that damn bird.
  6. My wife a reservation at a Comfort Suites in Freeport, Maine. When we checked in they told us we weren't allowed to smoke in the room nor have any pets and we had to signed that we understood these rules. I got the bikes and the front desk clerk said they didn't let bicycles in the room but don't worry they had a space behind the hotel for the bikes to be stored. I explained that these were $10K of bikes and that wasn't going to happen. She said we couldn't have our money back since the room was pre-paid. She saw my New Yorker this is going to get ugly face starting and changed her tune by crediting our card back. We went next door to the Super8 hotel and saved $50 for the night with no bike issue. Bad job Comfort Suites.
  7. The next night we checked into a Comfort Inn in Augusta without a bike issue.
  8. I found these places to "run." First, the Kennebec River Rail trail:
  9. Then I found this sign along the Androscoggin River:

  10. This path had a little outhouse:

  11. Before we left I couldn't get my camera to work (I took these pix with my phone). When we came back my wife found the receipt and we were less than 1 week before the warranty expired. She took it to Olympus and they said that "someone took" out the battery and put it back wrong. IT WASN'T ME. They put it in right and everything worked again. Isn't technology wonderful?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quote of the week - John Finn

"Sometimes the easiest way is the hard way." - John Finn

Monday, July 9, 2012


In the last few weeks, I've traveled:
  • New York to Connecticut to Massachusetss via car.
  • Massachusetts to New Hampshire via bike.
  • New Hampshire to Vermont to Massachusetts to Connecticut to New York via car.
  • New York to Connecticut to Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maine via car.
  • Maine to New Hampshire to Massachusetts to Connecticut to New York via car.
  • New York to London via plane.
  • London to New York via plane.
  • New York to Connecticut to Rhode Island via car.
  • Rhode Island to Block Island via boat.
  • Various spots in Block Island via bike.
  • Block Island to Rhode Island via boat.
  • Rhode Island to Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maine via car.
  • Maine to New Hampshire to Massachusetts to Connecticut to New York via car.
These travels don't include the broken minivan in Maine nor time spent shopping (as of yet unsuccessfully) for the replacement car. Upcoming work trips to California and perhaps Israel have been threatened.

Imagine why my blogging frequency has been reduced.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Quote of the week - Barack Obama

"Americans... still believe in an America where anything's possible - they just don't think their leaders do." - Barack Obama