Thursday, December 23, 2010

CrossFit

Ouch!

Last night's workout looked like a good place to try moving from level 2 to level 1. I knew it would be challenging, but I wanted to give it a shot. After a lengthy stretching warm-up, I did 5x5 of front squats at 135 and 145 for the last three sets. Then this was the main workout:

21-15-9
Burpee into a kettlebell swing
Walking lunges with a barbell plate held overhead.

My prescribed numbers were 35 pounds for the kettlebell and 25 for the weight plate. The first weight worked fine, but the second was too much after the front squats and I dropped to 15 partway through the workout. I was the last one done, so I had the entire class cheering for me, and on those last 18 lunges (9 per side, not just 9 steps), the coach was yelling at me to not put down the weight and just keep moving. It was brutal. And exhilarating. And, I'm sore today.

Today starts a few days where I'm just going to relax and enjoy the holidays. I'm going to a little gathering with friends tonight. Tomorrow, I pick up new skis and get to ski with my family for part of the day. Then, my sister arrives and we'll go out for a nice dinner on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day will be with my wife's family. On Sunday, my sister and my wife and I will find something to do. On Monday, I'm taking my son and a friend to see a concert, but I might be able to sneak in a CF workout. On Wednesday, I'm going to see Grace Potter and the Nocturnals with my wife, but I can definitely get in a workout that day. Life is good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Skiing

I had a mostly great weekend teaching skiing. One thing probably stopped it from being perfect and I'll discuss that below.

There had been a decent amount of snow at the mountain during the week and more trails were open than a week ago. However, the natural snow trails were a little bit thin and the snow was of variable quality. It was nice to have new trails to spread out the crowds, but I knew the skiing conditions would be challenging.

After a couple warm-up runs on Saturday morning, we had a quick meeting. I found out that I'd be getting a new girl in my group, and I was happy about this. I enjoy getting to know the students well and skiing with them for multiple years in a row. But, this had been my first season ever where I'd gotten no new students. I thought that adding a new girl would be a nice change for the entire group.

It turned out that the new girl already knew one of the other girls in my group. All of the girls welcomed the new girl and we had a great morning. Because I had a girl that I'd never met before, we started on very easy terrain. The new girl had less experience than my other skiers, but she was athletic and had a great attitude. By mid-afternoon, I had the entire group on intermediate to low level expert terrain. The new girl was the last one down one particular run, and when she finished, she asked me why she was the slowest skier in the group. I had every other girl talk about how long they'd been skiing. I told the new girl that she was doing amazingly well given that everyone else had been skiing for much longer than her. She seemed happy with that explanation. And, the new girl wasn't a beginner. She is new to a ski school program and a lot of her skiing has been on a smaller mountain, but she has skied a lot.

At the end of the day, I felt it had been a great success. Sunday, I would try to build on that success.

I typically structure our ski day in a way that allows me to teach something and then let the group work with what I've taught. We start skiing at 9:30. We take a warm-up run and then on the second run, I do some teaching. We practice whatever it is that I'm teaching for our second and third runs. From the end of the third run until lunchtime, I use moderate terrain that allows the girls to use whatever I've taught. After lunch, we usually spend some time on more challenging terrain, mostly for the girls to have fun, but also so I can see what happen to their technique on tougher terrain. I give individual guidance to the girls in the second half of the day, but rarely do any formal teaching. A huge amount of skiing is really just practice, and if the girls had to listen to me all day long rather than skiing, I'd have a rebellion on my hands.

Yesterday at lunch, I was trying to think of appropriate challenging terrain for the afternoon. The new girl had handled everything just fine so far. Some of the other girls wanted to ski a double-black diamond bump run, but I knew this was inappropriate terrain for my new student. Safety comes first at all times.

I finally decided to use the easier part of a single-black diamond trail for our challenge. I expected some ice and moguls, but nothing much more difficult than what we'd done already. So, we headed to the summit, headed down an easy intermediate trail, and then took a side trail to the more challenging terrain. As soon as the new girl saw the trail, she expressed her concern that it was too steep. I told her it was no steeper than other terrain we had skied already, but it was a longer trail. My son mentioned to me later that this trail does have a unique feature compared to other trails we had been skiing. It is completely straight and you can look down the steep hill for a long way. I think my son was correct that the view was intimidating to my new student. We started skiing and found the terrain to be challenging. We had soft snow moguls separated by large patches of slick ice. The ice was intimidating to the new girl. It was intimidating to two other students as well, including my own daughter.

I stayed with the new girl, but it was clear she was scared. And, the more scared she got, the more her skills regressed. This in turn caused her to have less control. Which scared her more. You get the point. About halfway down the trail, she told me she couldn't do it. She wanted to take off her skis and walk down. Sometimes, this is a good exit strategy, but not with icy trails. Skis are much better than ski boots on icy terrain.

I must admit that I've never had a student have a meltdown like that. I felt terrible. After almost 30 minutes, we finished the trail. On the lower part of the trail, the pitch decreased, and I was glad to see my student relax and make some nice turns. When the group was finally all back together, I apologized to everyone. I had put a student into a scary situation and it had affected the entire group.

We skied a little bit more, took a break for some hot chocolate, and then spent some time just playing in the snow to wrap up the day.

I've continued to think about my decision-making. In hindsight, it's easy to say I made the wrong decision. Yet, in some respects, I think I'd make the same decision again. The snow conditions were worse than I'd expected. And, I hadn't skied that trail in the past week. So, I made a decision based on incomplete information. Yet, the conditions were well within the abilities of the entire group. Most of the group enjoyed the trail and I had numerous requests to ski it again. We didn't do that. Perhaps I should have spent more time with the girl, waiting until I knew her better before I challenged her like that. Perhaps I would have found a clue that she would become mentally unraveled by the terrain. But, the terrain was not that big a jump from other trails we'd skied. The view was certainly different though.

A few years ago, I was coaching the daughter of a good friend who has also been a mentor to me as a ski instructor. My group that day asked to ski a tougher trail than I'd planned. The request was unanimous, and my friend's daughter got hurt. It was a minor injury but a scary situation. Near the end of that season, my friend asked me about my decision-making that day. He asked what I would do if the same thing happened again. I told him that in hindsight, I would, of course, make a different decision. But, I told him that without knowing that hindsight, I'd make the same choice. I felt it had been an appropriate decision. He told me that he was glad I felt I'd made the correct decision.

The first word of the motto of the Professional Ski Instructors of America is "Safety". I take that very seriously. Yet, sometimes, things don't go the way I expect. And every time this happens, I get to think about my decision-making. And hopefully, I learn from these situations and become a better ski instructor. But, sometimes I wonder. If something doesn't go well, and later, I still think my decision was appropriate, there seems to be some sort of cognitive dissonance. Skiing is certainly a sport with risks, but my job is to reduce risk, not increase it.

I guess I'll be replaying yesterday in my mind for a long time.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Taboo subject

I don't write about politics here very often. My good friends know that I fit in very well in Vermont - a liberal hippie type in a liberal hippie type of state. Despite the fact that I work for a venture funded start-up software company, I have managed to stay employed so far in the economic downturn. And, I make a pretty decent salary as the IT Director of my small company.

I hope I have the right understanding of the bill in my analysis below.

In exchange for an $800 dollar tax credit that is now gone, my wife and I will save even more than that in reduced social security payments. A lot more.

Individuals who are employed but make less than $20K per year will see their total tax liability increase, as they lose the $400 credit and save less than that in reduced social security taxes. The same applies to couples who make less than $800.

I live in one of the poorer counties in VT. The median household income here is about $48K. People who make that much probably struggle to even own a house here. That median household will save about $160 in taxes this coming year. I'll save over ten times that much.

Yes, I'm happy that unemployment benefits will be extended for those that need them. Those benefits are urgently needed by some people who simply can't find work. VT has a much lower unemployment rate than the national rate, and I'm sure that the extended benefits will have a bigger impact in places other than here. But, people without jobs need that lifeline. I'm certainly not one of those people who believes that unemployment benefits are a disincentive to working. They aren't that much money and I think that most people collecting them would truly prefer to be working.

But, how in the world did Congress and the President come up with something that hurts the employed poor (and I assume this hurts people on Social Security as well), and give me an even bigger tax cut.

I can certainly donate the money to people who will get hurt by this change, potentially including some family members. But, I'm tempted to save the money and donate it to the first liberal who announces a primary challenge against Obama. Obama may as well just change parties, because he is certainly a Democrat in name only.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

5-5-5-5-5, 6-6-19-42?

Who comes up with these workouts?

Last night at CrossFit, we started with an expanded version of something called the Burgener warm-up. Instead of using barbells, we use thin pieces of PVC pipe and practice Olympic lifting movements.

Next, we did overhead squats, at what was supposed to be a fairly high weight, 5 sets of 5, or 5-5-5-5-5. When I started doing CrossFit, I couldn't do an overhead squat at all. My attempts on my own in the past resulted in me in awkward position, balancing on the balls of my feet instead of my heels, with the bar too far forward and my squat not very deep. Since starting CrossFit, the coach has worked with me quite a bit on this lift, focusing on shoulder mobility and ankle dorsiflexion. Years of distance running have resulted in a very strong and tight gastroc, which really inhibits the flexion of the ankle. (This lack of flexibility is very noticeable when I'm skiing, so I'm constantly working on it). After lots of mobility work, I can finally do the lift, but not with much weight. I did a few decent sets with just the bar - 45 pounds. I then did two sets with 65 pounds, but my form suffered. I went back to 45 pounds to finish the sets. I was working out last night with a group of very fit Coast Guard members. One of them was doing the lift with perfect form and 175 pounds overhead. I was very impressed. He told me that a year ago, he couldn't do the lift at all, and that he'd come that far in year. So, I need to keep working to make this old body more flexible.

The last portion of the workout was timed, doing as many reps as possible of the following sequence:

6 pull-ups (I'm still doing band-assisted pull-ups, but I'm getting stronger)
6 push-ups
19 air squats
42 reps of jump rope

Who comes up with 6-6-19-42 as a sequence? Anyway, I've been getting much better at pacing myself in these types of workouts. In the beginning, I would start way too fast and burn out quickly. Last night, I nailed the timing. I was just starting to flail as I ran out of time.

I did 5 full rounds, plus 6-6-15 reps. The most encouraging thing was 36 total push-ups with really good form. In some recent workouts, I've resorted to knee push-ups to get through the workout, but not last night.

I will admit that I'm feeling tired from the past two days. Unlike the young kids there, I can't do the full-on workout day after day. I'm getting better, but I'm trying to listen to my body when it tells me not to push too hard. So, tonight remains undecided.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

CrossFit Total

On Monday night, we were supposed to do the "CrossFit Total" test in the gym. I was not only beat from skiing all weekend, but I was also extremely busy at work. So, I did the workout last night, on my own.

Basically, the workout is really a test. Excluding warm-up reps, you try for a maximum score in the back squat, strict (or military) press and deadlift. There is no time limit for rest between sets, but it has to be a single workout. You can't do one lift one day, go home, eat and sleep, do the other lift the next day, etc.

This rule is important and it certainly affected my total score.

Coming into this workout, I had worked out really hard last week. Then, I took a rest day on Friday, skied all weekend, and took another rest day on Monday. I still felt some fatigue from my first full weekend on snow, but it wasn't too bad.

I worked from home yesterday, so I did the workout on my own in my local gym.

Squat:
Last week, I tied my lifetime best in the squat at 285 pounds. A year ago in December, I had a good month and set new PRs for the back squat at 285 and deadlift at 355. I had three attempts, and wanted to start with a weight I knew I'd hit, then try a slightly higher weight, and go from there. So, I started at 275 and it went pretty well. I was leaning towards an attempt at 285, but decided to try to break my PR on the next lift instead at 290. I nailed that one. So, I went for 300 on my third attempt and nailed that one. I was off to a good start.

Press:
I had never really done this lift before starting CrossFit recently. I had done push-presses a lot - a lift where you dip a bit and then use momentum from the legs to help drive the weight overhead. But, this kind of movement is forbidden in the strict press. Consequently, this can be a frustrating lift. If you get stuck on the way up, it seems like you're done. In the bench press, it's possible to get stuck, adjust pressure somewhat and resume. But, not in the strict press. I knew I could do 115, so I started there after my warm-up and hit it easily. My goal was to try 125 and if I made that, 135. On the attempt at 125, the movement started OK, but then slowed to a crawl. I could see my face in a mirror in front of me, and my face got all red and I thought my head would explode. But, the bar kept moving very, very slowly. Finally, after what seemed like forever, I completed the lift. There was no reason to try anything higher. I was done here.

Deadlift:
I've been frustrated by my deadlift recently. As I mentioned above, I did 355 last winter, but I haven't been close to that since March or so. I hit 325 last week and that was on the edge. It's been interesting that my squat is improving while my deadlift has regressed. The difference between my best in each lift was 70 pounds a year ago, but only 25 pounds now. After my warm-up reps (limited after the previous hard work), I decided to start at 315. I knew I could lift that much and I did. Then, I got greedy. Rather than trying to tie my best for the season, I was thinking about my high-end goal of more than 750 pounds for my total, so I jumped to 335. I failed miserably. I barely got the bar off the ground and I just stalled. That frustrated me, but I felt like there was still a silver lining. I would drop to 325, nail that one, and get exactly 750.

But, the attempt at 335 plus the other lifts had taken too much out of me, and I stalled out again, although I came close on this one.

So, my total was 740.

There is a formula called the Wilks formula that uses age, sex, and bodyweight to adjust lifts so they can be normalized. My Wilks total was 220. I don't know if the coach calculated the Wilks total for anyone else. My primary interest is that it takes my age into account in a gym where 3/4 of the people are half my age.

I've been lifting for less than four full years right now, and only doing CrossFit for a couple months. Overall, I'm pretty happy with these lifts, but I need to keep working on them.

My eating yesterday was dead-on - bacon and eggs for breakfast, a veggie based soup with some protein for lunch, and a salad and grilled beef for dinner.

My pants are fitting better than they were a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Busy Day

Yesterday was a pretty busy work day, which happened to coincide with a planned rest day.

I had a late meeting with our CEO and some others in the company and I didn't leave the office until after 7:00. Then, due to snow and ice, it took me almost two hours to get home. I had a quick dinner, read for a bit, and got to sleep before 10:00. I am working from home today, so I got a good night of sleep last night.

Tonight, I'm going to do the planned workout from CrossFit yesterday. It's really a strength test called the "CrossFit Total", and after I get my score, I'll probably add some sort of interval work.

The CrossFit Total is the sum of your best weight in three different lifts: back squat, strict press and deadlift.

My recent bests for these lifts have been 285, 125, and 325. I think I can go higher in all three tonight, but I'm a bit confused why my back squat is currently at my "best ever" level, but my deadlift is 30 pounds from my max lift from a year ago. I have been doing max effort deadlifts at the end of tough workouts, so maybe doing fewer lifts tonight will let me lift more weight.

I was very happy with my skiing over the weekend. I can already feel how some of the CrossFit workouts have helped with mobility and dynamic balance, and all of my workouts are helping with strength. Despite weighing too much at present, I was very happy with how I skied this past weekend. I did have one technical issue that was bugging me a bit, but it was more a matter of being lazy at times. I noticed that any time my weight drifted back, even a bit, when I exited a turn, I would pressure my outside heel a bit just based on my weight distribution. This would cause me to exit the turn by smearing the skis rather than drawing a nice line in the snow.

I have to focus on my fore-aft balance more assiduously, and not let this lazy habit get worse.

We got a bunch of rain Sunday night and into Monday, but it snowed again last night. Hopefully, the mountain will have time to recover from the rain by next weekend.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Weekend

On Friday, I ended up taking a rest day instead of doing upper body lifting. I was just plain tired from workouts the previous five days. Even on Saturday morning, as I walked from the employee parking lot at the mountain to the instructors' locker room, I still felt tired. I got out for three quick ski runs before a meeting, and then we were off to pick up our students for our first day of teaching.

Last year, I had a group of ten girls. This year, 8 of them have returned to the group, although one is injured right now. The other seven girls showed up and we headed out to ski. I spent most of the day just lightly reviewing a few core concepts and letting the girls get used to new ski equipment and just re-adjusting to skiing. The ski terrain we had was limited, a lot of it was icy, and the mountain was crowded. It was a dangerous situation at times and I spent most of the day doing everything I could to keep the girls safe.

After the ski day was over, we had a party with the parents and the children, welcoming them back to the mountain for another season. I had a couple drinks at the party - the first time I had any alcohol in two weeks.

On Sunday, we were expecting rain, but the storm was supposed to start as light snow. Instead, we had a few hours of heavy snow and probably got 4" of new snow. It was very windy, and we had to abandon one ski run where we were skiing down a double-black diamond run into the wind and blowing snow. It was cold, visibility was very poor, and at our first opportunity, we left this trail and traversed slightly uphill to a much easier trail. By early afternoon, the snow changed to sleet and then rain, but the girls weren't willing to stop. All of their parents had already abandoned skiing for the day, but the girls weren't going to quit. All in all, despite the rain and wind, we had a really fun day, and on better snow than we had skied on Saturday.

Last night, we decorated the Christmas tree at home and I had some sparkling wine while we did that.

So, in the past week, I have continued to eat the way I wanted, I worked out or skied 6 days, and I'm feeling really good. Despite following the Primal Blueprint for the past two weeks, a grain and sugar free diet, I have not had energy issues with the lower carbohydrate diet. I did have some alcohol this week, which should be an infrequent part of primal eating, but I chose lower carbohydrate beverages (wine rather than beer or sweet cocktails).

I will have to weigh myself soon to see if my weight is changing. One of my co-workers mentioned yesterday that I looked like I'd lost some weight, and he's noticed me avoiding the pub at the mountain.

My legs are tired from the weekend and I have a lot of meetings today, so today will be a rest day. Tomorrow, I'll be back to working hard in the gym.

Oh yeah, my legs felt great while skiing this past weekend. I felt more flexible and stronger than I have on skis for the past few years. Despite the fact that I've never skied at a higher weight, it's clear that my CrossFit work and other workouts are helping with the skiing. Even though I felt tired from training hard during the week, once I got going, my legs felt really good.

Friday, December 10, 2010

More CrossFit

I ate as planned yesterday and it's getting easier mentally to come up with food ideas that are grain and sugar free. Up until last Sunday or so, I think I was dealing with effects from reduced carbohydrates, but I'm feeling a lot better now. My workouts this week have been better than last week, from an energy perspective.

Last night at CF, we warmed up with some rope jumping. Then we spent 15 minutes on form work for a lift called the snatch balance. I had never done these before, and the timing is a bit awkward. On some reps, I'd extend fully after the dip and then jump a bit as I pushed the bar overhead. On other reps, I'd fail to extend fully, which would be an issue if I was trying to push more weight. This one seems to be all about form and speed, and I've got some work to do.

For the main workout, we alternated sets of 10 overhead squats and 10 push-ups. The goal was to do as many sets as possible in 10 minutes. Until recently, I couldn't even do overhead squats due to mobility issues. But, the CF coach has been helping, and my form is much better now. But, I'm still doing light weights. Some people did 95 or more pounds. I stuck to 35 pounds last night. I got through 8 full rounds plus 9 more OH squats. That was a good number, but done at a low level. My shoulders are a bit sore this morning, so I think I chose the right level.

I read something recently, perhaps on the ultramarathon listserv or Mark's Daily Apple about how CrossFit seems to be great for people under 30, who can handle the intesity. However, the argument was made that it's too demanding for older athletes and people tend to get hurt or drift away. I'm trying to take a prudent approach right now, letting the young studs do the prescribed workouts while I do the easier version. I'm hopeful that a slow ramp-up to the tougher versions of the workouts will keep me healthy and that I'll continue to improve, rather than getting burned out.

Tonight, I'll lift on my own - upper body only - and try to save my legs for my first two days of ski instruction this weekend. I'm excited to be teaching skiing again, but disappointed by a really bad weather forecast for Sunday (lots or rain and freezing rain and wind). Maybe the forecasters will turn out to be wrong.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Almost made the wrong decision

Yesterday was a tough work day. My job is at a computer terminal, but it was one of those mentally draining days - death by a thousand details. By the time I left the office, I'd decided to head home and get a goo night's sleep rather than going to CrossFit. But first, I stopped at the cell phone store to get a new cable for my iPhone. I left the other cable in PA a couple months ago. When I left the store, I realized the fastest way home would take me right past the CrossFit gym. And, I still had five minutes to get there.

So, I went and had a fun workout - a slightly different kind of workout than we normally do. I've mentioned before that I rarely do the workout exactly as prescribed, but instead pick a lower level. We have the Rx'd workout, then Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. Normally, I do Level 2, unless a workout hits my strengths, and then I'll do Level 1. Late last week, when I was feeling wiped out, I did Level 3 twice. So, last night I did Level 2, and it turned out I should have done level 1.

Here is the workout:

Clean and press - two minutes, as many reps as possible. Level 2 was 65 pounds and level 1 was 95 pounds. I should have picked level 1. The coach said that if we picked the right weight, we'd get 15-25 reps. I got 29, the most in the group, so I clearly had a weight that was too light for me.

Then, a five minute rest. Then, a 5-4-3-2-1 with the following exercises:

Pull-up
Push-up
Box jump

You do 5 reps of each, then 4 of each, then 3, etc., as quickly as possible. It took me 3:06 to do this segment - fastest in the group, but everyone else was doing a harder variation.

Then, five minutes rest. And then the killer, Tabata air squats (aka bodyweight squats). T he Tabata protocol is 20 seconds of all out work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, done 8 times. When I do Tabata running workouts, I do 10 sets, rather than 8. But, with 8, a 4 minute workout segment can seem like an eternity. Then, just to make it more fun, the coach decided that our ten second rest intervals would be done in the down position - squatting, which was a quad burner. In the first 20 seconds, I got 19 squats. But, I slowed down, of course, and had 74 after six segments. I picked it up a bit the last two and got to 99.

Our score for the workout was our time in seconds in the middle segment minus our rep totals from the other two segments. So, I had 186 - 29 - 99 = 58. That was a good score, but I'd only done level 2, so the people with higher scores but with the Rx's workout did a much better job than I did.

For the day, I ate as planned - eggs and chicken sausage for breakfast, chicken thighs in a coconut curry sauce for lunch, two burgers on lettuce, without cheese but with avocado and other veggies for dinner.

I'm only stepping on the scale once per week right now. After my first week of eating better, I had dropped 3 pounds, from a weight that was the highest I've ever been. I'm hoping to see that number continue to go down, but I can already feel that my clothes are fitting better.

I'm on a listserv group related to ultrarunning. Some people there have been talking recently about putting down the heavy weights, giving up CrossFit, giving up the gym and other forms of cross-training, and focusing more on pure running workouts to improve their running. I'm guessing that's the right decision for them. But, improving my running seems to be a very distant goal right now, and a very low priority. I need to reduce my bodyfat percentage significantly right now before I even consider running longer distances again.

Plus, it's ski season!

Tonight will be CrossFit. Tomorrow might be a rest day, or at the very least, a light workout before two full days of ski instruction this weekend.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Keeping my priorities in order

Yesterday was one of those days where it would have been easy to skip my workout. Due to bad roads (snow and ice), I worked from home most of the day. (Given the roads today, I should have stayed home again, I think.) I started work by 7:00 a.m because I had a 4:00 dental appointment. Then, my wife reminded me that the refrigerator was empty. We hadn't been grocery shopping since just before Thanksgiving, and all of the Thanksgiving leftovers were finally gone. So, after my dental appointment, we needed to get groceries. I needed to come up with a fast but worthwhile workout.

Recently, when I've been in the gym for solo workouts (not CrossFit), I've been doing heavier weights, with low reps and longer rest periods. So last night, I reversed that, for a very fast and efficient workout:

Back squat: 3x10 @ 185
Strict press: 3x10 @ 85
Deadlift: 3x10 @ 205

I took no more than a minute between sets. Including warm-ups, the workout took me about half an hour.

After that, we had time to get my daughter some new basketball shoes, get some groceries, and go out for dinner, where I had a steak and a salad.

So, my workouts are staying on track, my eating is on track, and tonight, I'm going to CrossFit.

With a lot of new snow this week, I'm really looking forward to skiing this coming weekend.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CrossFit influence

Even though I worked at home yesterday and didn't make it to the CrossFit gym, my workout was definitely influenced by what I've been doing in CrossFit.

I started my workout with bench presses - a lift we don't do at CF, and one that I haven't done much recently. At CrossFit, we do a lot of strict presses - a different range of motion than the bench press, so I've been doing bench presses when I don't go to CF.

After my warm-up, I did sets of two, adding 5 pounds each set until I maxed out. I can really tell that I'm not doing this lift very much, because I maxed out 15 pounds below my best weight at this lift.

Then, I headed to the treadmill - a place I haven't been for a while. After a five minute warm-up, I did one minute hard, one minute easy for ten reps. That was it. Some strength work, some interval work, and then go home.

My eating was dead-on yesterday. I had eggs for breakfast, a Cobb salad for lunch, and then braised pork tenderloin with a salad and guacamole for dinner.

By 9:00, I was in bed and by 5:15 this morning, I was awake without my alarm clock.

Because of snow on the roads and a dental appointment, I'm working from home again today. So, I won't get to CrossFit today either. I'm planning on a quick and simple workout tonight. I'll do 3x10 each of squats, strict presses, and deadlifts. I've been doing these exercises at very low reps and higher weights recently. Tonight, I'll reverse things - more reps, less rest, less weight, and more sweat. I'll probably be sore tomorrow from the change in set/rep patterns.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Great weekend

The highlight of the weekend was skiing with my son yesterday. We warmed up on a black-diamond run and then did laps on a double-black until our legs were crying for mercy. Luckily, my legs feel pretty good today.

I continued my primal eating all through the weekend, including dinner out on Friday night with co-workers. While everyone else had burgers, fries, beer and dessert, I had a salad with a burger patty, club soda, and no dessert. And, I still had fun.

Saturday morning, we had ski instructor training, but due to a rainstorm mid-week, we did indoor training rather than out on the snow. But, our second-year boss really has things under control, and it was probably the best day of indoor ski-training that I can remember. After training was over, I never did make it to the gym, but came home and watched college football instead. I went to bed early on Saturday night and woke up early on Sunday. I let my son sleep in before we headed to the mountain for some skiing.

After skiing, we had a simple dinner and I fell asleep on the couch before 8:00 p.m. I was in bed by 8:00 and got a good 10 hours of sleep before waking up without an alarm this morning.

After work today, I'll go to the gym for bench presses and then do some running intervals on the treadmill. Tomorrow, I'll most likely go to CrossFit.

So, I made it one week eating the way I'd planned and working out hard. I feel pretty good right now. So, the obvious decision is another week just like last week.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Feeling my age and then some

In just over four weeks, I'll turn 49. But, for some reason, I feel like I'm about 79 right now.

I haven't been sleeping well this week. I've been working hard in the gym, but I feel like it's beating me up rather than making me stronger.

My last two workouts (last night and this morning) didn't go well at all. I expected to struggle in some workouts as I made some changes to my diet. It certainly takes the body a while to adapt to a change in diet. And, I know I'm not in great shape right now. It is amazing to me to watch the fit younger guys and ladies at CrossFit as they hammer through some of the workouts. It's easy to forget that they are half my age.

Last night's workout started with some strength work - front squats and strict presses. I am strong enough to hold my own with some of the youngsters on this part of the workout. Then, came burpee box jumps - doing a fixed number as quickly as possible. Burpees are hard. But then, when you have to jump onto a box as you finish the burpee rather than just doing a half-hearted little jump, it's a whole new game. Different levels of the workout had people doing anywhere from 40 to 100. I was shooting for 60, but by the time I finished 40, I was toast. Some of the younger guys had already done 100 by the time I did 40. And, they'd used a higher box.

This morning, to be honest, I was just glad I made it to the gym. After a tough workout last night, and not sleeping well, I was afraid I wouldn't even get there. Once again, I struggled with the workout. We started with some mobility work and some rope jumping. Then 5x5 weighted pull-ups, but I used a band and "unweighted" instead. Then, in 12 minutes, as many rounds as possible of 10 knee-ups, 10 wall balls (squat and toss a medicine ball against a wall) and 40 jump-rope reps. I felt sick to my stomach through the workout and only managed 4 rounds, which was disappointing.

After the workout today, I talked to the trainer for a while. I told her that I'm finding CrossFit to be very humbling. I know that things will improve and that it's still new to me (fewer than 20 total workouts so far), but I'm not used to being the last guy in the class. I think of things I've accomplished in the past in running shoes that I'm proud of - sub-3 marathon, sub-18 5K, 82 minute half-marathon, a top-100 finish at the Wasatch 100 and a finish at Hardrock. And now, I'm the fat kid who would get picked last for dodgeball, it seems.

So, I'll keep working. Keep focusing on eating well. Stay away from the beer. And, I'll find that 49 really isn't that old. I hope.

There is an article titled "What is Fitness?" that was written by the founder of CrossFit. I've been a decent runner at times in my life. But, at no point have I come close to being fit by CrossFit standards. So, I just have a lot of work to do, I suppose.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Not quite as planned, but a good day anyway

My triceps are still trashed from Monday's workout. And, my legs are tired from Tuesday. Late yesterday, I found out I had to be in my office rather than working from home today, as I'd planned. This means I can go to CrossFit today. Because of that option, taking a rest day yesterday became a more acceptable option, knowing I'd work hard today instead.

So, no workout yesterday. But, I ate absolutely according to plan. I had coffee for breakfast, a big salad for lunch with some leftover Thanksgiving turkey for protein. For dinner, I had a local grass-fed rib-eye steak with another salad. I had a some 3-year old Cheddar cheese for a snack after dinner.

Tomorrow will be a challenge for me. I have a social engagement after work, and it will be at a bar whose food specialties are burgers and fries. So, my first challenge is to work out in the morning. I either need to lift at home at 6:00 and then shower and drive to work, or I need to get up early and drive to the CrossFit gym for a 5:45 class. Either way, I'll need to be up early to make sure I get a workout. And then, after work, I need to find some healthy food choices and avoid the bad drink choices.

On Saturday, I'll be leading a training group of young ski instructors as we get ready to start teaching children for the ski season. So, I need to be at my best on Saturday morning to make the training day worthwhile for the young instructors who will be spending the day with me.

We start teaching customers a week from Saturday, so this weekend is our last chance to get prepared for the season.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Good lifting workout

Another day of sticking with the primal diet. I had a salad for lunch with steak and cilantro and edamame (which I did not eat - a legume). And, I had 3 hard boiled eggs.

For dinner, I had broiled frogs' legs (my daughter hated them, my son thought I should have deep-fried them, but my wife and I like them), asparagus with hollandaise sauce and a salad. I had some walnuts for a snack.

My wife's car needed some exhaust work yesterday, plus a new windshield (Two recent visits to the dealer for service and I'm out over $2K, but the car is running well, especially for 164K miles!). So, my evening schedule got messed up a bit. Rather than going to CrossFit, it made more sense to go to the local gym. The workout on Monday left my triceps and shoulders sore, so I decided to do a low-rep, high weight leg workout. My triceps are actually sore to the touch - something that happens to my quads after mountain runs, but rarely my arms.

So, I went to the squat rack and started to warm up. I started with no bar, then a 45# bar, 95#, 135#, 185#, and then two big wheels - 225#. This is where my workout started. I just added weight ten pounds at a time, trying to do three reps if I could, two if I couldn't make three, and finally one. I eventually tied my squat PR from last December with a 285# lift. However, my depth was a bit questionable a year ago and this was a much better lift.

Next, I moved to deadlifts. I started at 135, and build to 275 in my warm-up. Then, I started adding ten pounds at a time, doing doubles at first and then singles. I got to 325# for the progression and realized I had no more. A year ago, I deadlifted 355#, but I'm 30# from there right now. Given that I've gained weight in the past year, I'm surprised that my squat is better than a year ago (or at least as good) and my deadlift is not as good. But, it will come back.

Tonight is CrossFit. Hopefully, we won't use our triceps at all. Hah! Coach Jade is a sadist.

I was disappointed to see that I missed doing Turkish get-ups at CrossFit last night.

Hopefully, the rain will turn to snow early in the mountains tonight. A major storm and warm air have been messing with our mountain snowpack. I'm looking forward to skiing on snow this weekend, and not ice or mud.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Killer Workout

Day 1 of my little 7-day goal of eating primally and working out hard:

Food was dead-on. Coffee in the morning, a salad with some tuna at lunch, bacon, eggs and salad for dinner, and some walnuts and blue cheese for a snack.

The CrossFit workout yesterday was a killer. We warmed up doing some form work with medicine balls. Then, we did ten minutes of rope jumping, trying to focus on "double unders", where the rope crosses under the feet twice per jump. I was able to get into a decent rhythm of 1-2-1-2-1-2, and 1-1-1-1-1-1, but not 2-2-2-2-2-2-2. The number means the number of times the rope crossed under each jump. It seems odd to me that 1-2-1-2 would be easier than 2-2-2-2 but that's how it worked last night.

Then came the main workout. We did 10 thrusters followed by 10 push-ups. We did this 10 times, as quickly as possible. A thruster is essentially a front squat followed by a push-press, finishing with the barbell overhead. With a total of 100 thrusters, I kept the weight fairly low. The push-ups were harder than the thrusters by the end of the workout. This workout was more of a muscle failure workout (for me) than our typical main part of the workout. Typically, I'm limited by my ability to go very hard - my heart rate and breathing rather than muscular ability. Last night, I got to points where I simply had to rest before I could do more push-ups. The very last finisher (he did a harder variation of the workout than I did) was reduced to a single push-up at a time as we cheered him to a finish.

My time was 17:15, but I didn't do the workout exactly as prescribed. Each day on the board, there are four variations on the workout - Rx'd, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. As you move farther from the prescribed workout, the amount of weight will drop, the height of a box for jumping will drop, or the type of push-up you do might change. Right now, I am mostly doing Level 2. Until I get more of these workouts under my belt and I drop some weight, I'm not going to be doing the prescribed workout. When we do workouts for strength, I'm one of the stronger guys in the group, but add in the speed and high number of reps, and I'm one of the least fit people there.

Today, after skiing over the weekend and the workout last night, I pretty much hurt everywhere, but the shoulders and triceps are the worst. If tonight's workout hits the shoulders much, people will be yelling at the coach!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Holidays, skiing, some exercise

Last week was a busy week. I was hosting more than a dozen people for Thanksgiving and I'd been out of town the previous weekend. On Monday, I opted to shop for food rather than workout. On Tuesday, I had to deal with my wife's car, which needed some major repair work, and I again missed the gym.

On Tuesday evening, I also started cooking for Thanksgiving. On Wednesday, I managed to get in a weight workout and I enjoyed it. After that workout, I cooked until about 2:00 a.m. But, at least I had a workout done.

Thursday was all about cooking and spending a fun day with family. Don't even ask how many bottles of wine 8 adults drank that day. Friday, I tried to clean up from all of my cooking and watch some football. And, all of a sudden, it was the weekend and I'd only done one workout for the week.

On Saturday morning, I had a meeting at the ski resort. It was a meeting of the trainers, getting ready for how we will be training other instructors the next few weekends. After the meeting, a few of us managed to sneak out for a couple runs, but the skiing wasn't really fun for me. Snow from snow guns made it difficult to see. Limited open terrain put a lot of skiers onto narrow trails, and some people simply don't emphasize safety in their skiing. After just a few runs and one close call with a customer, I decided to call it a day. I went home and watched some football and fell asleep early.

On Sunday, my wife and I got up somewhat early so we could go skiing together. This day, I switched to some skis that I knew had solid edges and I had way more fun than on Saturday. My skis held the snow and ice very well, I started to feel more comfortable on moguls, and I started to remember how this whole skiing thing works.

After skiing for two days, I fell asleep on the couch at 7:00 last night and then went to bed well before 8:00.

Today, I'm feeling rested and ready to get back to CrossFit. My goal for this week is two-fold:

1) Work out every day Monday through Friday, plus ski on Saturday.
2) Follow the dietary goals of the Primal Blueprint exactly - no grains, no sugar, no legumes, no beer.

After a week, I want to evaluate how I feel from a week like this.

No grains? No beer? If you think it sound's crazy, there's more info at this link:


If you think it all sounds crazy or ineffective, read the success story here:


Now, I can just get my butt in gear and follow something that works for me, when I do it right...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bit by Bit

I noticed at my Tuesday night CrossFit workout that my fitness is definitely improving. It's happening slowly, but there is change going on. I still have a long way to go, but I got through a tough workout on Tuesday with a consistent level of (hard) effort - no puking halfway through.

I also did a CrossFit workout on Monday, and then yesterday morning, I did a pure strength workout - 7 x 1 of three different lifts - back squat, barbell strict press, deadlift. My heaviest lifts for the first and the last were well off my best lifts from last winter, but not impossibly far away. I did my best ever on the strict press at 125#, mostly because I rarely do that lift. And, some recent form work on that lift at CrossFit is clearly working.

Tonight, despite being tired from the past three days, I'm going to do another CrossFit workout. Then, I think I'll take a rest day tomorrow and see how I feel on Saturday morning before doing another workout.

The ski resort where I work (Sugarbush) had originally hoped to open this weekend, but that is certainly not going to happen. Right now, even next weekend is in jeopardy, although colder temperatures are one their way today and tonight. Many of my skiing buddies have made some turns this year, either by paying for limited terrain at a mountain that has opened or by hiking to make turns in natural snow. Right now, I'm hoping to be on the snow no later than 12/4, but that's mostly up to the weather.

I need to enjoy this coming weekend, because it will be the last weekend I won't be working at Sugarbush until April or so.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another long break

We're living in puppy time, it seems. Puppy time is a weird place in the universe that requires hyper-vigilance. It can take mere seconds for a puppy to eat a pair of eyeglasses, shred a dozen socks, or manage to go to the bathroom inside seconds after you took him for a walk. There is no human capable of really effectively keeping up with a puppy. You just do your best.

So, our defective Ridgeback, Johnny Rotten, is truly a puppy. He is sweet, but he has sharp teeth and he's not afraid to use them. He doesn't care that his ears are crooked, his tail is crooked, and that he has too much white to ever be a show dog. He just wants to be a puppy, and he will be a Grand Champion at that by the time he grows up.

The cool thing is that he loves people. He hasn't seemed to miss his old home at all, because he's got four people, two cats, and an older Ridgeback to play with. The other pets are still wary, but he's slowly making progress with them. And, the puppy is really dominating things for us, it seems.

Since we got the puppy, I've gotten in four good workouts - stacking firewood, CrossFit, and lifting on my own. This week, I'm determined to get in another good week. Ski season is just around the corner and I'm still not as fit as I'd like to be. To be honest, I'm far from that point. But, the only option I have is to be more consistent, don't miss workouts, and take advantage of a November that seems intent on delaying skiing season.

Plus, since I'm not skiing, I have more time to watch over that little dog, and stop him from eating every sock I own.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Where does the time go?

A week ago at this time, I was on the verge of arriving in State College, PA, to hang out with my brother for the weekend, and see Penn State play Michigan in football on Saturday night. I look forward to this annual weekend with my brother, and as usual, we had a great time. The fact that Penn State pounded Michigan in the first half and then held off a Michigan comeback was a nice added bonus. I had never seen Penn State beat Michigan in person, so it was very enjoyable for me. The game marked Joe Paterno's 399th win as the head coach at Penn State.

Then, after not much sleep on Saturday night, I started driving home - an 8+ hour solo drive. By the halfway mark in the trip, I was not happy. I was being hit by intermittent snow squalls, my car still had soft-rubber, summer-only tires, and I was sleepy. I pulled over at a rest stop and called home, and my wife suggested I just get a hotel room for the night. That was a great suggestion, but it meant I started my work week a bit late on Monday.

But, after a few late evenings this week, I've more than made up for that time. It seems like the work week has flown by. I managed to get in two CrossFit workouts, but I skipped yesterday because I'm still fighting a residual cough from an illness a couple weeks ago. It seems like I didn't get nearly enough done at work this week, so my weekend is probably going to involve a lot of work.

But, tomorrow, I'm taking the family on a brief road trip. When my dog Rocket died a couple months ago, I let Rocket's breeder know about his unexpected death. We talked back and forth, and I mentioned that my kids were very interested in getting another Rhodesian Ridgeback. Having never lost a dog this way before, I asked the breeder's opinion on when would be the "right" time to consider getting another dog. She said it's very variable - some people need a long time to grieve and others, especially people who have multiple dogs in their household, find that they (and their other dog(s)) are ready fairly rapidly. My kids had made it clear that they would love another dog.

So, I asked Rocket's breeder when she was planning her next litter. It turned out that she had just tried an artificial insemination using the frozen sperm from Rocket's great-grandfather. She hadn't publicized it yet, so we got on her waiting list fairly early. It was odd thinking that we might purchase the great uncle of our recently deceased dog, but the idea of a dog related to Rocket was very appealing. Regretfully, the artificial insemination failed, so we started looking at some other options. One local kennel had an older male - about six months that needed a home. And, a kennel in MA had two pups left from a gigantic litter of 16 pups. We checked into both options, and found out that the older dog had recently found a home. So, we started researching the kennel that had the two pups. It turned out that the puppies were the great-great-grandpuppies of Rocket's great grandfather - the same dog whose frozen/defrosted sperm had failed.

If I can figure out how this works, these two puppies are something like third cousins, once removed of Rocket.

So, tomorrow, we are taking a trip to meet the breeder, see her kennels, meet the puppies, and in all likelihood, we will return home with a new puppy. We've got our sights set on the male given that we already have a female dog in the house. He's a cute little boy at the moment, but one of those puppies with huge paws that remind you that he won't stay little for long.

Serious specialty breeders are really nice people to work with. Both previous breeders that we've worked with have been very helpful when we've had issues with the dogs. For example, our female has had ear issues since she was a puppy, and both breeders helped us to dissect her diet to see if we could find a cause. Eventually, we discovered that she simply couldn't eat grain of any kind and stay healthy. And, they serve as references when you are talking to another breeder about a dog. Because we have now had Rhodesian Ridgebacks in our house for almost a decade, and we've taken great care of them, the process with breeders is getting easier. When we got Rocket, the interview process was more daunting than most job interviews.

But, with the new breeder we are visiting tomorrow, the process has been less formal. Rocket's breeder vouched for us, and after almost ten years of living with the breed, the breeder knows that we know what to expect.

So, if all goes well, tomorrow evening, our female Ridgeback will be introduced to her new "baby brother". We can't decide if she'll try to adopt him or kill him, but we are obviously hoping they become good friends.

The breeder has been calling this dog Johnny. My son is a big fan of punk music, so we're thinking of calling him Johnny Rotten, the name of a member of the band The Sex Pistols. Then, when we register him with the AKC, we might use the name "Shabani's God Save the Queen". Shabani is the kennel, and God Save the Queen is an amazing Sex Pistols song.

Or maybe, if we meet the little guy and the breeder, and things don't seem to click, we'll come home empty-handed. But, I'm guessing that by tomorrow night, we'll be living with a puppy. Yikes. Put everything that can be chewed on above head level!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

CrossFit again

My wife continues to believe this is perfect for me. Get pushed hard, do it with a group, and come home pumped from workouts. I've basically been working out solo, at least 95% of the time, since I moved away from CA almost 14 years ago. Working out in a group is great. And, because I'm the new guy, I'm finishing last in many workouts. This means that everyone else is watching me and encouraging me, and I can't back down or go half-assed.

Last night, we started with some foam rolling and using lacrosse balls to massage "hot spots". Then, a warm-up of 50 kettlebell swings at a weight and pace of your choosing.

Then, ten minutes of form work on split presses. Then 3x10 of box jumps - sit on one box and in a single continuous movement, stand up and jump up and onto another box. I almost killed my shins on this one until the coach helped me with a more appropriately sized box.

And then, the real workout. Because I can't yet do a muscle-up (sort of a pull-up followed by a dip on rings), I did the substitute sequence:

7 deadlifts, 14 band-assisted pull-ups and 21 push-ups. Times three. For time.

I used #235 for my deadlifts - well below my max, but something that would be tough for 3 sets of seven. The first set went well. The pull-ups, even assisted are not easy for me right now. Then, push-ups, deads and pull-ups again. And then, it was Pukey the Clown time again. I have to get better at pacing myself or maybe try using lower weights until I get used to the pace of the workout. After a 2 minute break out back, I returned. Some people were done, but I wasn't. And, I wasn't going to quit. So, with most of the gym watching, I pushed through the workout, finishing in 10:30.

The coach gave me my CrossFit shirt last night, so I guess I'm really part of the "team" now.

I'll go to one more class tonight before I head out of town to see the Michigan at Penn State football game this coming weekend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To "Helen" Back

Last night's CrossFit workout was as follows:

>WOD:

- Clean and Jerk Complex (1 rep consists of 1 Deadlift, 1 Squat Clean, 1 Hang Power Clean, and 1 Split Jerk. Complex must be completed in 20 seconds): 1-1-1-1-1-1-1

- "Helen"- 3 rounds AQAP
Run 400m
21 Kettlebell Swings 53/35
12 Pull-ups

Post results/thoughts to comments

Awesome job on the Olympic work today everybody. We went through the Burgener Warm-up to get going and many of you are starting to get a better handle on those movements. Way to push those lungs on "Helen" today you guys all pushed hard and are all making strides in both your conditioning and all of the strength movements we've been using. Pull-ups are getting way better for many of you. Awesome work. See you tomorrow. Cheers."


Again, it sounded easy. Plus, after not doing a workout for 12 days, I deliberately took it easy. Only 65 pounds on the C&J complex, where I'm sure I could have done 95-105. I used the 35 pound kettle-bell. And, I used a band for my pull-ups.

Somehow, I still struggled. On my first 400 meter run, my calves felt like they would cramp up. No running for a while will do that. The swings went OK, but I seemed much slower than everyone else. Some photos later revealed that my range of motion was more than needed. And then, even with the support band, I sucked at pull-ups. It was tough.

I was the last person to finish the workout, so I got all of the coach's attention at the end. He hurried me through the final set of pull-ups. I finished. Last, but I finished.

And suddenly, I knew I was about to "meet" the CrossFit character you don't want to meet. He's known as "Pukey the Clown". Some CrossFit gyms give out T-shirts for people who meet Pukey. I was hoping no one would notice. I went outside and dry heaved for what felt like 10 minutes. By the time my stomach settled down, everyone else was about done with their cool-down. I tried to pretend that nothing had happened. I don't know if they bought it or not.

In two hours, I'll be back for another round.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eleven Days Since My Last Post

Getting sick sucks. But, even though I was sick most of last week, life has been interesting since my last post.

Right after my last post, I went to see Roger Waters perform The Wall again, this time, with my wife in Hartford, CT. It was a great show (again) and my wife and I enjoyed getting away for a trip to the "big city".

Then, suddenly, I started to feel sick. My boss sent me home from work early last Monday. That kind of stuff can happen when you work for doctors. I managed to get some work done from home the next few days, but I was really sick. By Friday, I felt good enough to go to the office, but still not quite 100%.

I did manage to make it to Boston to see some friends last weekend and see Gary Numan in concert, a 30th anniversary tour for his Pleasure Principle album. It was a solid show, although I can name a handful of songs I wish he'd played beyond the entire anniversary album.

The past two nights, I've slept a lot. I'm still just tired from being sick. My last workout was on Thursday, 10/14. Tonight, 12 days later, I'm finally going back to CrossFit. I really only have 5 or so weeks to get myself into better shape for ski season. As the ski season progresses and I hopefully get back to being consistent with my workouts, my fitness should improve. But, I have to admit that I wish I was in better shape as the ski season approaches.

Just before I got sick, I'd really started to get consistent with my workouts. Now, after 12 days, it feels like starting over in some ways.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How hard can it be?

CrossFit Workout of the day:
Warm-up
- Strict Press: 5-5-5-5-5
- 3 rounds AQAP:
Run 400m
75 Air Squats

It doesn't look that hard, does it?

Because I'm the new guy, the coach only had me do 35 air squats per round.

I was going to do the entire workout, but he was right. I did well on the presses - good form and the right weight for me right now - 85 pounds. The very last rep on each set was tough and on the last set, the last two were very tough.

So, we then started the "real" workout. After one 400m run, I started my air squats. I cruised through them. On the ramp back outside to run my second 400, my legs almost buckled. WTF? On the second set of air squats, I had to take a break partway through. The last run was terrible. And them more air squats? It took me 12 minutes for the whole thing and it was hard.

Oh yeah, then we spent about ten minutes stretching. I'm so inflexible I couldn't even get into the correct position for the stretches. But, that's what I'm there for. I'm not sore today, just tired again.

It's snowing in the mountains right now. Some people will probably be hiking to make some ski turns tomorrow, but I won't be one of them - too many other things going on.

I like this CrossFit stuff, but I sure hope I survive it. Next week, I increase the number of classes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CrossFit

So, for a few years, I've been thinking about trying CrossFit workouts. But, for a long, long time, Vermont had no CrossFit affiliates, so the opportunity didn't really exist. Recently, I decided to take a look again and I was surprised to see 2 affiliates in Vermont. One is in Montpelier, about halfway between my home and my office and the other is about a mile from my office. Last night, after work, I went to the one close to my office for a tour and to watch a workout.

People new to CrossFit, at this gym at least, are required to take a 4 session beginner class that focuses on teaching correct form for the various exercises. However, because the owner of this franchise knew that I am already a lifter and a runner, I went there prepared to work out, if he offered. And, of course, he did. And, I did indeed get worked.

CrossFit uses a standard warm-up, according to their web-site:

3 rounds of 10-15 reps of
Samson Stretch (do the Samson Stretch once each round for 15-30 seconds)
Overhead Squat with broomstick
Sit-up
Back-extension
Pull-up
Dip
Note that for a workout that's dip or pullup-centric, you might want to do something else in the warmup.

The overhead squat is a nemesis of mine from the gym. It shows my lack of flexibility in a few places, especially ankle dorsiflexion. And, my limited ankle dorsiflexion affects my skiing in a very negative way. This is part of why I am interested in CrossFit. Years of long distance running have resulted in a very inflexible body. Lifting weights has helped, but CrossFit places emphasis on flexibility, agility and balance, in addition to just being "strong" or having endurance.

I found out quickly where the "Our warm-up is your workout" phrase came from. It was an interesting introduction to CrossFit, and I wasn't at the workout yet. Next came ten minutes of "WYW" - Work Your Weakness. The owner took this time to teach me a lift I'd never done before that I'd need for the main workout - the squat clean. It's a complex move and I definitely struggled with it. After the 10 minutes were up, he suggested I use a power clean instead for the workout, which is an easier move overall. He suggested that I could use 95 pounds for the workout, based on my squat and deadlift maxes.

So, the workout was named Elizabeth, and was two different exercises with rep patterns of 21-15-9. There were two lifts: squat cleans and dips. Basically, as fast as possible, we were supposed to do 21 reps of each lift, then 15 of each and then 9 of each. There were a limited number of ring sets, so being the new guy, I gladly substituted push-ups for the dips. The coach said "Go" and we were off.

After about ten reps of power cleans, I had to rest for a bit. I did about 3 more reps and had to rest again. After my 17th rep, I was about to throw up. I stepped back from the bar to allow myself to recover. The coach noticed and suggested that I remove some weight from the bar. He said it was more important to keep moving rather than focus on the amount I could lift. So, we dropped from 95 pounds to 65 pounds, and I continued. It wasn't easy, but at least I wasn't hurling, so I guess the reduction in bar weight was a good idea. I finished in just under 8 minutes. Oh yeah, half of my push-ups were from the knees.

It was a killer 8 minutes, but I could see the value in something like this. It definitely hit me in a lot of areas where I'm weak. Not physically weak, but just not the best all-around athlete that I could be.

After the main workout, we still had a cool-down - 3x30 of either Abmat sit-ups or 3x30 of "toes to bar". I don't even know if I'm flexible or strong enough to do 1 rep of the latter, so I did (most of) the sit-ups. I was whipped.

So, next Monday night, I start the four "beginner" sessions. But, because I have experience in the gym, I've been invited to continue doing regular workouts while I go through the beginner classes.

Today, I'm not sore, but I can feel that I worked hard. I think this is going to help me a lot in a number of areas, especially with weight loss and improving my skiing. The improvements in my skiing will be by-products of CrossFit, but I'm sure they'll happen. Some people have likened CrossFit to a cult. I can see that perspective, and if it is true, I guess I'm going to drink the Kool-Aid.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Best Workout Week in Months

I had a great week in the gym and running last week - the most workouts I've done in a week in months. It could have been better, but I did so much better than I've done recently. I still need to be better with my diet and my beer consumption, but just getting a workout nearly every day is a victory for me.

Tonight, I'm going to visit one of the two CrossFit gyms in Vermont. I've been thinking about the upcoming ski season and some of the weaknesses in my skiing. In particular, CrossFit addresses some areas of "fitness" where I know I don't excel. First, my skiing is hurt by my lack of flexibility. Secondly, anything that helps with balance cannot hurt my skiing. In reality, all of the fitness goals of CrossFit should help to improve my skiing. Plus, doing CrossFit should help me to lose some weight before I'm on the snow. So, depending on the visit tonight, I may soon be trading my normal lifting workouts for CrossFit.

Right now, I really want to focus on my fitness for ski season and my weight. After ski season is over, if I accomplish what I want over the winter, I then want to see how a more serious return to running goes in the spring. But, for right now, I'm going to focus on exercise that helps me to be stronger, more agile, and more flexible, in the hope that I'll have a great skiing season.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A good string of workouts

Last week was a little bit light in the workout department. Way too light - just two days.

So far this week, I've worked out every day - a heavy leg day in the gym, a running workout of mostly sprints, an upper body day in the gym, focusing on the bench press, and a nice easy steady state run today.

Tomorrow, my daughter has an afternoon soccer game, so getting in a workout might be tough, but I'll give it a shot.

I've got no real plans for this weekend, which should make it easier to get in some workouts this weekend, which I failed to do last weekend.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Roger Waters Performs "The Wall" - A Review


I was lucky enough, or maybe stupid enough, to be in the front row for the Sunday, October 3rd show at the Boston Garden. The concept of stupidity is related to the price of my seats.

I must admit up front that The Wall has been my favorite album for many, many years. If I had to guess what album I've listened to the second most times in my life, I'm not sure what it would be. But, there's no doubt that I've listened to to The Wall more times than any other album.

At first, I wasn't even going to go. From Pink Floyd, it was only Roger Waters in this show. In the 1990s, I'd seen the rest of Pink Floyd in Oakland, and it was a really good show, but without Roger Waters, it wasn't really Pink Floyd. And, despite the fact that The Wall is really Roger's album, it still wouldn't be Pink Floyd. But then, I read an article/interview about the tour in Rolling Stone, and the next thing I knew, I wanted to go.

Being the all or nothing type of person that I am, I decided that if I was going, I wanted good seats. After all, in some ways, I'd been waiting 30 years for this show. I looked around the internet for tickets in either Montreal or Boston. I found out that the third and last show in Boston still had front row tickets available, but for quite a premium.

Before this show, the most money I'd ever spent for a concert ticket was $95 to see CSNY right after Neil Young released Living With War. That show was worth the money. But, this show was going to be 3.5 times as expensive if I wanted to sit in the front row. And, I had to buy two tickets. Even if I was stupid enough to spend almost $350 for a concert ticket, I still needed to find someone else that stupid.

Luckily, one of my skiing buddies (I'll only use his initial here, which sounds a lot like his name), J, was just the guy I was looking for. An ex-college roommate (and best man at my wedding), who happens to live near Boston, offered to put us up for the night after the show. And then, he got us some great seats to see the Yankees play the Red Sox on the last day of the regular season. Suddenly, this day was getting really expensive. And really memorable, even before it happened.

After the baseball game, J and I got some food with my friends from Boston and then we headed to the Boston Garden. We got our tickets and headed inside. When we got to our seats, I was amazed. It really was the front row. I kept worrying that I'd misunderstood and paid a fortune for a seat in the front row of the back section. But, the stage was right there in front of us.



There wasn't a whole lot to the stage at the start - the big circular screen in the center, the instruments for the band, and the beginnings of the wall to the left and the right.

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the show itself. The band was excellent, although it seems like it took at least three people to replace David Gilmour between his guitar work and his vocals. The vocalist did a great job though.

Musically, the show was very true to the album, with a few additions and some changed lyrics. There were some clear messages during the show that weren't necessarily part of the original album or at least weren't as big a part of the album. There are many references to the stupidity of war, and some icons on the screen (red icons dropping from a plane, apparently as bombs, but shaped as religious and corporate icons) blaming religion and corporatism for wars. There were many messages about NOT trusting the government ("Mother, should I trust the government?" "Hell No!").

And, as the first set progressed, the Wall was gradually being built. Some highlights of the first set included the pyrotechnics after In the Flesh. The final burst sent a wave a intense heat right to our seats. Giant "puppets" appeared for Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2, and of course, the Mother puppet during Mother. One of the coolest things was the exact timing of the construction of the Wall. As each brick was put in place, the constant animation that was projecting on the wall would be expanded to the newest brick. The timing of everything was very precise.

At times, brief obituaries were shown for soldiers and civilians - some who had died in WWII, and others who have died more recently in Iraq or Afghanistan or even London. As the first set neared its close, the wall was completed and we went to an intermission. During the intermission, the wall was covered with more brief obituaries:





The third side of the album (yeah, I'm old) might have been the least interesting, in some respects. Yet, it contained a lot of animation and film on the wall, with mostly Roger singing in front of the Wall while his band was behind the Wall. It's not that I don't like the music. I love it. But after the theatrics of the first set, this was kind of tame.

The most poignant moment of the entire night was during Bring the Boys Back Home. A film was projected on the Wall that showed what appeared to be an American girl in her school classroom. She had a look on her face that can't even be described - something either amazing or horrible had rendered her absolutely speechless and incapable of emotion. Finally, she stands up and runs across the room to hug a soldier, presumably her father. This scene had me on the verge of tears, mostly for how emotional it was, but also because it reminded me of all of those reunions that never have taken place. The never-ending cost of war in terms of human lives remains unfathomable to me. Some live. Some die. Everyone suffers, it seems, except the people who make the decisions. But, enough of that subject.



The third side of the album ends with Comfortably Numb, just an amazing song. It was done by Roger Waters in front of the Wall with the David Gilmour replacement above the wall on some scaffolding. At least that's how I think it was done; it was hard to see from where we were.

On the fourth side of the album, thing get a little weird. The Waters character, Pink, has a meltdown of sorts, perhaps a psychotic episode, and believes he is performing in some neo-Nazi type of band. Regretfully, my few pictures of this sequence didn't come out too well. My friend J has some good photos from this part that I might add later. At this point, the band formed in front of the wall, as the "surrogate band" for Pink, who the audience is told isn't well. It all went down like some sort of musical Nazi rally - a very important part of the show, and a connection to the death of Roger's father in WWII while Roger was a child. This all takes place in 3 songs - In the Flesh (part 2 - the same, yet different, song that opened the show), Run Like Hell (Roger claimed this was for all the paranoid people in the audience) and Waiting for the Worms. Run Like Hell is one of the better known songs from the album and is a great follow-on to In the Flesh, part 2.

At this point in the show, I have to admit that I was feeling kind of sad. The show had been great, but it was almost over. Only 3 songs to go, with one of them painfully short. In the first song, Stop, Pink decides that maybe hiding behind the Wall wasn't the best decision. Adultery, overbearing teachers and mothers, the loss of his father, and the success of his band, which pushes him to large impersonal arena shows, have been too much for him. But, maybe some spark of humanity remains, and in Stop, the possibility is suggested: "I wanna go home; take off this uniform and leave the show".

Then, comes the climax of the show - the Trial, with the Judge, and testimony from the teacher, the mother and all of the other characters in the story. If Pink had had his doubts about the Wall, the verdict took care of that for him: "Tear Down the Wall!" There were some amazing graphics through this part of the show, and then suddenly, the wall toppled towards the audience. Security guards protected people in the first few rows by deflecting cardboard "bricks".




And then, just the denouement - the band in front of the exploded wall, singing a short but simple song that ends with the phrase "After all it's not easy, banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall". The band took their bows and filed offstage.

So, was it a good show? A great show? I say yes on both accounts. But, I'm biased. It's my favorite album of all time and an amazing band played it really well. Roger's voice is still quite good and he has assembled a great team to play the music and to stage the show. It is an amazing experience - the story itself, the construction and destruction of the wall, the use of video and other effects - just amazing.

I'd gladly see it again. I think any Pink Floyd fan who didn't hate the Wall (and there were quite a few of them) should see the show. In the story/interview in Rolling Stone, there were comments that this might be it for Roger and touring. This isn't just a concert. It's a show. An amazing spectacle. And, it was worth every penny I paid for it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Better

I never worked out yesterday, but that was OK. I needed some sleep, so I went home, had some dinner and went to bed before 8:00. I got 10.5 hours of sleep and I feel much better today.

On the way to work this morning, I decided I was going to delete yesterday's whiny post, but two friends had made encouraging comments, so I left it there.

I have been having problems sleeping recently. I remember when my grandmother told me this would happen to me as I got older. I didn't believe it. Actually, a lot of adults warned me about how my life would change as I got older, and dammit, they were mostly right.

My sleeping problems seem to have me sleeping in a sine wave manner. One night, I can't sleep at all, the next day, I can't stay awake. On these days, when I'm tired, I often skip my workouts and go to bed early. Then, I get a lot of sleep and feel better for a day. And then, I can't sleep the next night.

I certainly don't want to take any pharmaceutical to help me sleep. Beer doesn't seem to help either.

In the past week, I went to my 30th High School reunion and had a great time. Some people there would say I had too much fun, but there were lampshades involved.

After my workout today, I'm going out for dinner with my wife and son. My daughter won't come along because of a junior high dance, even though her "boyfriend" isn't attending anyway.

Tomorrow, I get to go to one of my daughter's soccer games. Plus, I'll make a trip to the farmers' market, and then I'll watch some football.

Sunday, I'm in the front row to see Roger Waters perform The Wall at the Boston Garden. This is perhaps my favorite album ever and the early reviews on the show have been great. I might even take in a Red Sox/Yankees game Sunday afternoon before the concert.

Compared to most people, I have absolutely no reason to be unhappy, apathetic, etc. But, yesterday was just one of those days. I think the facts that my fitness level is the lowest it's been in years, and my weight is perhaps the highest it's ever been have combined to make me a bit grumpy. There's only one way to fix that, I suppose.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just lost

I miss my dog.

Work is pretty intense right now.

My workouts are very intermittent. I lifted yesterday, I ran last Saturday, and that's it for the last week.

My commute is wearing on me.

I recently calculated that despite the hours I work for my start-up company, I'm only making 93% of the real income I was making when our previous President took office. I also get way fewer benefits and work in a company with way less stability, but I have way more work and responsibility, not to mention ten extra years of experience.

Other things are also wearing on me - things I'm not going to write about here.

I have front row seats for a dream rock concert on Sunday, and even today, that isn't thrilling me.

Maybe it's the rain outside today, but I'm just not feeling anything but apathy lately.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Good and Bad

The Good:
I had a really nice run last night, mostly on trails in Red Rocks Park in Burlington after work. I planned to run easily for an hour and spent about 70 minutes out there at an easy level of effort. It was one of my first truly fun runs in a while. Maybe I need to spend more time on trails and less on roads when I am running.

The Bad:
I've been fighting allergies the past few weeks, sneezing like crazy. Sometime last week, I either broke a rib or pulled a muscle during a sneezing fit. Moving can be tough, stepping wrong while running hurts, and coughing or sneezing is brutally painful. I could go to the doc, but at most I'd get an X-ray and some pain meds I don't really need. Or, worse, they'd take my co-pay andjust send me home and tell me to give it time to heal.

So far, the only lift that seems to bother it is bench presses, alth ough I'm planning deads tonight, which might also hurt. We'll see.

Today is the last official day of summer and we are getting a warm, muggy day with thunderstorms due later. But, it's been autumn-like for a while now, and the trees are starting to change. I love this time of year and I plan to get in some more train running over the next few weeks. Of course, I wish Rocket was here to enjoy those runs with me.

I don't think my children ever read my blog, but we have been in contact with the breeder who sold Rocket to us. She might have a litter of pups in November if an artificial insemination worked, and these dogs would be related to Rocket. If the litter works out, the kids may have quite a surprise for Christmas this year. My wife and I are kind of scared about the concept of a puppy in the house, but we feel like we've become a two-dog household - a household that currently seems to have a big empty hole.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rest Day

I rested yesterday after running on Friday, lifting on Saturday and sort-of racing on Sunday.

My plan for the rest of this week is running today, lower body lifting tomorrow, sprints on Thursday, upper body lifting on Friday and an easy run with my wife on a rail trail on Saturday morning.

Oh yeah, plus I have to work in there sometime.

Some areas had frost last night. Winter is coming. Well, at least autumn, which starts officially tomorrow evening. My favorite thing about the first hard frost of the year is that it signifies the end of lawn-mowing season. If I time things right, I should only have to mow one more time until May or so.

The bad thing about frost is that it can quickly end our growing season, ending the tomato season that is going so well right now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Autumn in New England - a beautiful weekend

Friday night, I got out for a run in the cool weather, running along the bike path on the edge of Lake Champlain. It was an amazingly casual and fun run. After the events of the past few days with the loss of our pet, it felt good to exercise. On the way home, I met my wife at my favorite watering hole, Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier. My wife had one drink (DD), while I enjoyed a few seasonal beers. After that, we left one car in Montpelier and headed home in the other.

On Saturday morning, we returned to Montpelier to pick up the car. And, instead of visiting the tiny famers' market in our hometown, we went to the "big city" market in Montpelier. I really like supporting our local farmers, but the market in Montpelier is so much more diverse than our local market.

We got lots of veggies, including Chinese long beans, one of my favorites and something that I rarely see. We got some Elba potatotes, a rarely grown variety that is perfect for mashing. We got some great cheeses and great bread. I bought some local wild yellowfoot chanterelles mushrooms. We got some local guinea hens and some local pasture-raised and nitrate free bacon. I was cooking dinner in my head as we shopped. We added a bunch of other fresh fruits and veggies for the coming week. Tomato season is at its peak right now and it's time to enjoy all of these that I can.

After the market, we headed home for our workouts. I lifted, with a 5K scheduled for Sunday, and my wife did a walk/run with the dog. After that, I had a couple margaritas while watching college football.

After the game, I hit the kitchen. I had a homemade chicken stock that I'd recently made. I added some dried porcini and began reducing the stock. I put the guinea hens in a pot to poach slowly, adding some salt and veggies for some additional flavor (and a future stock). I cut the bacon into lardons and cooked it. I then sauteed the chanterelles in some remaining bacon fat.

I made a salad from all local ingredients and prepped some local snow peas. Even the butter and bread I was working with were from Vermont.

By the time I was done, this was dinner:

Poached breast of guinea hen in a chicken-stock demi-glace with chanterelles and bacon lardons.
Mashed Elba potatoes
Steamed and buttered snow peas
Salad with a homemade vinaigrette (the vinaigrette ingredients weren't local)

1989 Leoville Las Cases Bordeaux - Some people claim this is the winery's best wine ever, but even at age 21, it seemed a bit young. Luckily, I have another bottle to re-visit in a few years.

The dinner was simple but amazingly tasty, and something that just came together from what I found at the market that morning.

After dinner, I stayed up too late watching football, while my wife, who was more interested in a good race on Sunday morning than I was, went to bed early. And, it paid off for her.

We ran the Mad Dash in Waitsfield, VT on Sunday, opting for the 5K over the 10K. I mostly wanted to hang out with friends and after some wine and margaritas on Saturday, I just wanted to finish, and hopefully not be last. The course was almost a cross-country course, with trails, puddles of mud, and a long uphill on a dirt road. At the 1 mile mark, I was behind just about everybody I knew. My wife passed me about that point and asked me how I was doing. I told her I was fine and she took off. She beat me by at least a minute and I was very happy for her. One of my former ski students even beat me, running her best 5K ever. (Please note that I'm not posting my time. It must be on the interweb somewhere, but it was my slowest 5K ever, and I see no reason to admit how slow I am).

After the race, we enjoyed a nice cook-out with the families of two other ski instructors from Sugarbush. By the time we got home at 6:00 p.m., both my wife and I were ready for bed. It was a fun, but full, weekend.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day by Day

There is still a lot of sadness in our house. My daughter seems most upset by the suddenness of it all, and her inability to "say goodbye" to Rocket. I have to admit that I feel the same way. By the time we found him, I don't think he recognized us anymore. He was just too close to death. So, while I was there, it doesn't feel like Rocket was really there, and it feels like he died alone.

What I find myself thinking about is every time I refused him some more dinner, wouldn't let him take my couch spot, moved him out of my way when watching TV, etc. You know, all the little times I could have been a bit nicer to him. Of course, I should remember all the times he stole food from the counter or ate garbage or chewed up clothing. That would make this all easier to deal with.

Everyone seems to be making up for the absence of Rocket by showering love on Nikki, our other ridgeback. She seems to be taking it all in stride so far. Nikki has always been fairly aloof and indifferent, if not rude, to Rocket, and she doesn't seem disturbed by his absence at all.

Last night, my daughter suggested we get another dog immediately and name it Rocket Junior. I said I didn't think I could deal with another dog named Rocket, but that just "RJ" might work. But, I also said that I needed some time before we have another dog. Ski season starts in a few months and we are gone from the house almost all day every weekend for months. That's not a good environment for a puppy.

But, perhaps, by springtime, things will align and we'll find another ridgeback puppy.

Nobody in the house worked out the last two nights. I have to say that this isn't really surprising. I'm hoping to run a little bit this evening. I'm entered in a 5K on Sunday (don't ask me why - it will be my slowest ever), so I need to take it fairly easy tonight. Tomorrow morning, I'll do an upper body lifting session before watching some college football.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rocket - a Tribute


This is the last photo taken of Rocket, taken last Saturday evening. The children in the photo are not mine. They are the children of friends who came over for dinner. I took the picture because it captured everything anyone needs to know about Rocket - he simply loved people. He loved his family, but he would show love to anyone wanted it. It was not uncommon for him to just walk up to someone sitting on the couch and lick them in the face for no apparent reason.

I don't even know where to start. My best friend died very unexpectedly yesterday. Rocket was not a human. He was a "defective" Rhodesian Ridgeback - a ridgeback without the ridge.

Please forgive the writing style. I seem to just be recalling random events from our life with Rocket, writing them down as they come to me.

It was a decade ago that I read Call of the Wild to my son. We read a chapter a night until we got through the whole book. For some reason, my son and I re-named Buck to be "Duck". It made us laugh. My son was 7 at the time.

By the time we finished the book, we both knew we wanted a dog. But, we both have asthma. We needed a dog who wouldn't cause allergy problems. I spent a lot of time researching dog breeds. We needed a non-allergenic breed. I wanted a fairly large dog rather than an overgrown hamster. We wanted a breed that would be good with children. We came down to a final list of breeds - Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Portuguese Water Dogs, and Weimaraners. We started looking around for breeders and dogs.

It was a grueling process, to be honest. When we finally found out that a breeder near Syracuse had an available ridgeback, the interviews started. It was more intense than buying a house and as personal as the pre-marriage counseling I remember from 25 years ago. At times, I wanted to just call it off and buy a dog at a pet store. But, from all of my research, I had decided I really wanted a dog from a breeder who would support us if we had any problems. And, after numerous phone calls, a contract arrived in the mail. A contract? To buy a dog? But, we signed the contract and sent a check to the breeder.

Rocket was born on 3/23/2001. He would be ready to go to his new home in late May of that year. But, already, we had a problem. We were going to CA for vacation for almost two weeks in June. We didn't want to put a puppy in a kennel, so we arranged to pick Rocket up after the trip.

We were so eager to get Rocket that we planned to drive to Syracuse as soon as we got off the plane ride home at the end of the trip. We flew home on a red-eye and our daughter wouldn't sleep, so my wife got very little sleep. We headed out on the six hour drive to Syracuse despite being tired. When we arrived at the farm where Rocket was born, we were immediately surrounded by what seemed to be a herd of ridgebacks. One of them had no ridge and we knew immediately that it was Rocket.

And, the last 9+ years have been an amazing blur, with Rocket as our constant companion. My daughter told us last night that she doesn't even remember life without him. I can't imagine life without him, to be honest.

Rocket was a lap dog - a 110 pound lap dog. I'm convinced he thought he was human as well. When we got a second Ridgeback a few years later, Rocket seemed miffed. Why did we bring a dog into the house? The second dog made Rocket share couch space. The second dog would take the best spot on the bed. She would eat his food. She just had no manners.

Rocket was also true to his hound heritage. Twice, while out running with me, he took off after a deer and hit a barbed wire fence at high speed, requiring a trip to the vet to get stitches. Another time, while running with my wife, he lost an encounter with a porcupine. That required another expensive trip to the vet.

Once, after I had just run a 5K race, my wife was walking Rocket back to the car and he saw a squirrel. My wife ended up on the ground as Rocket took off after his "breakfast". Another time, a groundhog barely escaped with his life after Rocket got between the groundhog and its den.

Rocket was big and scary looking to people who didn't know him. But, he had the sweetest soul of any dog I've ever known. If you were a wild animal, he might have bad intentions towards you. If you were a human, after a few barks, the biggest risk was an unexpected kiss on the face.

Rocket never developed great dog manners. He was fine with humans, but not realizing that he was a dog, he wasn't quite sure how to play with other dogs. Mostly, other dogs were annoying to him. He wanted to be with his humans.

My wife tells me that when I traveled, Rocket would sometimes sit on the couch, watching the driveway and waiting for me to come home. This would go on for days.

Rocket loved to be on trails. He would run with me on trails and dirt roads. My son and I once did an 18 mile hike on a bike path with him. Once, Rocket and I hiked straight up Sugarbush's most difficult ski trail in the autumn, before the snow started to fall. During hunting season, I would put fluorescent colors on him so that hunters would (hopefully) realize that he wasn't a deer. Trail running here in Vermont in the autumn is one of my favorite activities. The trails are usually dry, the bugs are gone, and the smell in the air reminds us that winter is coming. Rocket couldn't wait to go on these runs.

As Rocket got older, his endurance seemed to wane. It happens to us all, as I can attest. He also tolerated heat less well than in his younger days. Rocket hated water, yet he would sometimes jump into a pond or roll in a stream to cool himself off during a longer or warm-weather run. Then, we'd have to clean him off before he could go back into the house.

I talked to Rocket's breeder this morning by e-mail. This is part of the message she sent back to me:

"I know how your family is grieving right now. Try to remember all the funny, wonderful things about Rocket and know that eventually time will turn the grief to warm memories. Not soon, but it will happen. Please pass on to your family my heartfelt Thanks for giving Rocket such a wonderful life and so much love."

I could probably write a book about all of those memories. And right now, I'd spend all of that writing time with tears in my eyes.

Rocket was fine yesterday afternoon, or at least he seemed to be fine. But, when we got home from my daughter's soccer game, my wife notice him lying in the grass in the backyard. Rocket never laid down on the grass. My wife called to him and he didn't respond. We hurried outside, knowing something was wrong. He was breathing, but he wasn't responsive at all. His eyes were rolled back in their sockets a bit. My wife wasn't sure what was going on, but I knew. I didn't know why it was happening, but I knew what was happening and I told her "He's dying." I didn't want to believe it, but I was sure it was true.

We called the vet. I knew that it would be a trip in vain, but the vet agreed to meet me at the office. We loaded him into the car and I took off for the office. Suddenly, while driving, it all hit me. I was in tears. I actually yelled at Rocket a couple times, asking him what I would do without him. I still don't know the answer to that question.

By the time we got to the vet's office, he was gone, and he took a little bit of everyone's heart with him. Or, maybe a lot of everyone's heart.

He was a mischievous dog. He would steal food from the counter or get into the garbage any time he had the chance. He would sneak upstairs and eat the cats' food. He chewed up slippers. He chewed up my son's glasses when he was a puppy. We would yell at him every time, but he didn't seem to notice. I'd give just about anything just to yell at him one more time.

I hope he knew that we loved him as much as he loved us. What more could anyone ever want from a pet but undying love?

Rest in peace, my friend.