Friday, January 29, 2010

I should be a doctor (well, not really)

My wife decided on Wednesday evening that I was sick enough that I needed to see my doctor. I told her I couldn't do that; I had a meeting in my company's main office on Thursday and too much work to do. Plus, the meeting started at 8:00, and the only way to get a same-day appointment is to call right at 8:00. I also told her that the doctor was going to tell me that I either had the flu or pneumonia, and other than giving me some cough medicine, I'd just be told to wait it out and not ski this coming weekend.

My wife is too smart for me. She told me that I could dial into my 8:00 meeting from home. I rarely do that, and they'd understand. Then, while I was in my meeting, she'd call my doctor's office and get me an appointment. She works at the hospital, so it was easy for her to schedule the appointment.

So, I agreed. The truth is, I felt so bad that I was glad to avoid the hour-plus drive to my office. I was able to participate in a long meeting while sitting on my couch, sipping coffee, and wearing my pajamas. Partway through the meeting, my wife sent me an e-mail saying that she'd secured an appointment for me, although it was not with my PCP, but rather a new doctor at the hospital.

The intake nurse is someone I'd worked with professionally when I worked at the hospital. I'd worked on a quality improvement project with her, but never seen her in action as a nurse before. I was very impressed by her thoroughness and congeniality and sympathy towards how I felt. We are lucky in such a tiny rural town to have a very high quality hospital. The three years I worked there made me respect the hospital even more.

Then I met the new doctor. We talked for about ten minutes and he listened to my chest very intently with his stethoscope. The diagnosis? Either flu (I had the H1N1 shot, but not the normal vaccine due to short supply) or pneumonia, probably the latter. He gave me some cough medicine, had me get a chest X-Ray, told me to absolutely not ski this coming weekend, and sent me on my way. So, I had the diagnosis right on.

In nine years of teaching skiing, I've never taken a sick day. There were times when I probably should have called in sick, but I always showed up. But, not this weekend. I suggested to my boss that I know a newly certified PSIA instructor who knows all the girls in my group, and that he would be an ideal replacement for me this weekend. My son hopes it happens because it would be the most fun weekend of teaching for him so far this year.

I guess I'll catch up on Netflix movies this weekend and hope I feel better by Monday.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Proud Papa

My son passed his PSIA Level 1 Certification Exam! He is now the youngest instructor at Sugarbush to have this certification - a nice distinction in a ski school with more than 300 instructors. I talked to his examiner yesterday and was told that my son was both a good skier and a good instructor. Hopefully, this will now lead to him getting better work assignments at the mountain. I could not be prouder of my son right now. And, I know that I also have his "skiing godfather" to thank for his progress. My son's coach for his last few years as a student is an excellent skier and an excellent instructor. He sponsored my son as a junior member of PSIA and has continued to take an interest in his skiing journey as an instructor. I hope this is the first step on a long journey for my son.

My son is probably a fairly typical teenage boy - not really prone to exuberance, at least around adults. But yesterday, he was clearly very happy and very pleased with his exam performance. It was nice to see him so excited about something in the "grown-up" world.

On my side of things, I continue to fight an illness. I wrote two days ago about starting a new workout routine, but it hasn't happened. I am taking codeine for a bad cough and I'm also taking antibiotics, which I'd resisted for the past couple weeks. But, the doctor convinced me on Monday morning to try some antibiotics because I wasn't getting better.

Today, my entire body aches as if I'd done my planned hard workouts the past two days. Rest is needed.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Nervous Father

My son just wrapped up the second day of an examination for his Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) teaching certification. There are three levels of certification, and at age 16, he is eligible this year to take his Level 1 exam. I've been teaching for 9 years and I'm certified at Level 2. But, if either of us ever makes Level 3, it's very likely to be my son rather than me. He's a better skier than I'll probably ever be, and he just needs more teaching experience to become a very good instructor.

Right this minute, I'm just hoping he did OK on this exam, so he'll be encouraged to continue with this process.

When I took my Level 1 exam, there were two groups taking the exam. Because my supervisor was the examiner for 1 group, I had to be in the other group to remove any potential for bias. My supervisor warned me that my examiner was "old school" - someone who didn't think that a Level 1 certification should be automatic. I was also warned that the examiner could be somewhat intimidating. I passed that exam, and I've had that same examiner in every exam I've ever taken. For the level 2 exams, you have multiple examiners and multiple exam segments, but one guy has always been part of the process for me. I've learned to respect his honesty and fairness, but I've also seen him intimidate people in exams.

Yesterday morning, my son sent me a text from the mountain. His examiner was the very same person I've had for my Level 1 exam. I sent my son a note, telling him that I thought his instructor was "tough but fair". I'm guessing he did fine, but the results won't be announced for an hour or so. In the interim, I'm sitting here working and hoping and worrying, at least a little bit.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Final follow-up on my Platelet Rich Plasma Treatment

I saw the sports doc for the fourth and final time since my PRP treatment back in September. It's been about 18 weeks now. He's had one patient with a serious shoulder problem who saw significant improvement in the 4-6 month time window after the treatment. But, that seems to be the exception.

I am certainly healthier now than I was before the treatment. But, did the treatment cause the healing or was it simply a matter of time and other treatments? I'll probably never know, but I'm guessing the treatment contributed to the progress I've made.

The doctor is happy with my progress, but he still wants me to consider a second treatment as a future option. I told him that a second treatment during ski season is not feasible. I expect that my running mileage will also remain low through ski season. So, I've suggested that I see how my running goes for a month or two after ski season. If my stride still feels compromised, I may have another treatment. Or, maybe not.

So, I'm still not sure what my future as a runner will be. And to be honest, I'm not too concerned. I'm having my most enjoyable winter in years right now. It's really difficult to try to run 200 miles per month in the winter while teaching skiing on the weekends, working a full time job during the week, and still trying to have time with my family. It's nice to plan for a 60 minute workout every day and that's it. In April, I'll get back to running more earnestly, find out how much fun it is, and I'll see where my conditioning is. I doubt that I'll run any significant races this year. Perhaps this is the year where my streak of running at least one race of a marathon or longer every year since 1986 will finally end. Or maybe not.

I had a great weekend of skiing. My group is simply a fun bunch of girls and we skied hard this weekend, and had a lot of fun as well. It's really hard to believe that I get paid to teach skiing to such a great group of girls.

Tonight, it's back to the gym. I've spent the last six weeks doing a strength-focused weight program. For the next four weeks, I'm changing my focus dramatically. I'll be using a program called Warp Speed Fat Loss for both my workouts and my meals. The program spells out every workout and meal for 4 weeks. I've used it once in the past with good results - 12 pounds lost in 4 weeks. We'll see how it goes this time around. One of the nice things is that everything is planned for me. I just have to spend an hour a day in the gym and eat what they tell me to eat. After these four weeks, I'll go back to a different strength-based program for the last month of the winter.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Even the shorter weight workouts seem to be taking their toll this week. After work last night, I spent about 50 minutes in the gym, doing an upper body and core workout.

I was asleep by 8:30 and up at 6:00 this morning. I'm physically exhausted right now.

Tonight is supposed to be a squat workout in the gym, but I'm going to wait until after work to decide on the workout. It may become a rest day instead.

My posts are as short as my workouts.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Not too much to say. I'm still trying to take it somewhat easy this week, while still doing a short workout every day. Last night's workout was focused on deadlifts. My max lift last night was 335 for a single rep, which was 20 pounds lighter than a few weeks ago. After six sets of deadlifts, I did lunges, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings and reverse incline crunches.

Then, dinner and another early bedtime. I think I was asleep by 8:30 and I slept until 7:00 this morning.

The long-range weather forecast looks very ominous at this point in time. We are looking at a major rain event on Sunday night, with no major snowstorms in the forecast anywhere. Our snowpack is already fairly thin for this time of year and the rain will probably cause a number of ski trails to close. For some ski areas, it might mean closing the entire resort temporarily.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Easy week ahead (and a question)

Because I've been fighting a cold and cough for close to two weeks, and because I spent 7 of 9 days outside skiing while sick, this is going to be an easy week. I also want to do any workouts indoors, hoping to let my lungs and my voice (some mild laryngitis) recover in warmer air.

So, last night, I did an upper body lifting workout. I was in and out of the gym in 45 minutes. No super-high weights. Not a long workout.

I came home, ate a quick dinner, and I was in bed before 8:00. I read for a bit, but I was asleep before 8:30. I got 9+ hours of sleep last night.

I'll continue that trend this week - low-key workouts, early bedtimes, and I'll wait until my lungs recover before I do any running. My mileage for the year is pretty pathetic so far - one run of about 3.5 miles.

On another topic, it seems that many of the blogs I read - personal rather than professional - are updated less frequently these days than in the past. Maybe it's the time of year that endurance athletes are taking it easy. But, I have to wonder if Facebook and Twitter are slowly killing blogs. Many of the authors of the blogs I read are also Facebook friends. Has our attention span gotten so short that Facebook is the limit of what we want to write or read?

Print magazines have certainly changed over the last couple decades, with long, detailed stories becoming less common, and short fluff pieces filling many magazines. One of my favorite magazines was Gourmet and I subscribed for 25 years. Right up until the end, there were still long, in-depth articles in that magazine. And then, the magazine got killed by its publisher last year.

The greatest magazine article I think I ever read was "Consider the Lobster" by the late David Foster Wallace. How many magazines these days have readers with attention spans to read an article like that? I remember even Gourmet readers complaining about the article, although much of that was disagreement with the theme of the article itself.

Are we heading to a point where our attention span is so short that text messages and Twitter are the limit of how long we can think about one topic?

What was I talking about?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ski, Ski, Ski

I just had an amazing stretch of 9 days where I skied 7 days. That's my best stretch of skiing in a few years, and it was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I was fighting a cold for the entire time. I think it's time for a week of low-key workouts or rest days so that my body can recover some now.

I taught for two days last weekend (1/9-1/10). Then, I took a 2-day clinic where I was the student. We skied at Smugglers' Notch and the snow was amazing. I learned a lot that I intend to use in my teaching for the rest of this season, and beyond.

After that clinic, I had to catch up at work before 3 more days of skiing.

Friday was an amazing day. Eight of us skied with Matt Boyd, a member of the PSIA National Alpine Team. It was a very enlightening day in every respect. One of the things that most impressed me about Matt wasn't his skiing, which was fantastic, but rather his eye - how he could watch skiers and then quickly prescribe a tactic to improve that skier. I skied more vertical feet with Matt than I'd skied in any day in years, yet he managed to help every single one of us to improve our skiing, all while keeping us moving. It was truly an amazing clinic - a chance to watch someone at the highest level of the profession do his thing. By the end of the day, we were skiing in steep bumps. Matt came up with a "game" for us to play on one run. I felt like I'd failed in the game, but when I got to Matt, he had a huge smile on his face and gave me a big thumbs-up. It wasn't the game's objective that was important. Rather, it was how my skiing would change just by attempting the game. I realized that after the fact, as I thought about the very aggressive and direct line I'd just taken down a steep bump line. That's what Matt wanted me to do; the game was just a trick to get me to do it.

The other big takeaway from the clinic, for me, was how Matt defined the difference between a PSIA Level 2 skier and a Level 3 skier. I've had my level 2 certification for a few years, but I don't know if I'll ever be a level 3 skier. I'd like to take that exam in the next couple of years, but there are issues in my skiing that I need to fix before I have a chance of taking that test.

Matt suggested that Level 2 skiers decide consciously where to turn, while level 3 skiers point the skis downhill and simply react to what they find. I thought about that statement for the rest of the day, and realized that I really do spend time thinking about where to turn. Yet, I'm good enough on my skis to react to situations when I get in trouble. So, I need to let loose a bit, and just ski. Think less and just ski.

Over the weekend, I taught skiing again, but my head was full of so many new ideas. It was hard for me to pick what to work on with my group. In the end, I went back to basics and I taught wedge turns to the group. Saturday afternoon, after multiple attempts to get the wedge turns just right, our group was videotaped doing these turns. I was very happy that my demo on the video was dead-on, and even more happy to see that every student had improved from earlier in the day. Sunday, we took a new skill from the wedge turns and transferred that skill to tougher terrain. Except for a few bumps in a terrain park, we had a great day.

Today, it's back to work and back to the gym. The cough from my cold is still not 100% gone, so I'm going to do easy lifting days until I'm more physically recovered. I hope to do some running later in the week, but I want my lungs to be clear before I return to running.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Squat Night

My lungs are still a bit congested, so I decided to lift rather than run last night. After skiing for the four previous days, I was thinking I should probably do an upper body workout, but it had been two weeks since my last squat workout, so I went with that instead.

My legs felt fine for the opening squat sets, but then didn't like some of the later lifts. I started out with the following squat sets, after my warm-up, with a 3 minute break between sets:

6 x 225
1 x 245
6 x 225
1 x 265
1 x 280 - a PR and a much "cleaner" squat than my 275 a few weeks ago
12 x 185
20 x 135

After that, I did Bulgarian split squats and step-ups, and here I could feel the tiredness in my legs from skiing. Then, some core work and I was done.

I'm still coughing today, so I'm going to lift again rather than trying to run. Tonight will be an upper body lifting night, letting my legs recover a bit before I ski with a PSIA national team member as part of a training day at Sugarbush tomorrow.

After that, I hope to use my 3 days of clinics this week to inject some new tricks into my ski instruction over the weekend.

Now, if it would just snow...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Feeling Better

I skipped my planned workouts on Thursday and Friday. But, after that, I had four days of skiing planned, and I didn't skip them. Saturday morning, on the way to the mountain, I felt terrible. It was hard to imagine how I was going to ski. But, once I got outside and got moving, I felt fine. Every time we took a break, I felt like crap. Every time I went outside and put on the skis, I could forget that I felt sick.

Saturday night, a bunch of ski instructors with early January birthdays got together for an annual birthday dinner. We had a great night, with a potluck dinner and some nice beers and wines. I had to be good so I'd feel OK to teach skiing on Sunday.

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday; I felt great while skiing and felt sick while sitting. After skiing on Sunday, I got home as quickly as possible to get some rest before a long drive on Monday morning.

My ski clinic the past two days was called Movement Analysis. Within PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America), we are required to take at least one educational clinic every other season to keep our certification level current. I tend to take a clinic every year though. My last few clinics had been all about fun and hard skiing - "Trees and Steeps" and "Advanced Bumps". So this time, I opted for a more technical clinic with a goal of learning how to watch skiers' movements and then apply appropriate lessons to help the skier improve. But, because Smugglers' Notch resort has such great snow right now, we spent a lot of time on hard terrain. The clinic was a great blend of technical information and the application of that knowledge to both easy and difficult terrain. I learned a lot and really enjoyed the clinic.

My cold is better, despite the four consecutive ski days, but not quite gone. I'm going to try to lift today and run tomorrow, before I have another ski clinic on Friday. The clinic on Friday should be amazing. It's being led by Matt Boyd, a member of PSIA's Alpine Team. Matt and his brother Jeb are both on the national team, they are both great skiers and great coaches. The clinic on Fridy is "Train the trainers", where Matt will help us to become more proficient at coaching other coaches, rather than just teaching skiing to our normal customers. For the past few years, I've done some staff training at Sugarbush, and anything that can help me to get better at this should be fun. Plus, skiing with Matt will be a treat, and the other clinic participants will be some of the best skiers and instructors at Sugarbush.

Of course, I have to remember my day job as well, and it's time to get back to that work right now.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I caught a cold around Thanksgiving. It didn't seem like a big deal, but I had a cough from the cold that has lingered for weeks. My doctor even suggested I take prednisone to try to get rid of the cough. I passed on that option because prednisone and I don't get along very well.

The cough finally seemed to be disappearing this week. And now, I've got a cold again.

So, after a slow month in December, I was really ready to work hard in the gym and on my running. Plus, I'm supposed to ski the next four days. Right now, I just want to go back to bed until this cold is gone.

The cold has me so tired that I fell asleep at halftime of the football game last night and woke up after midnight. My wife told me the final score of the game when I got up this morning. It sounds like I missed an interesting half of football.

My daughter is happy now. She pretty much "owns" our television, but I use the TV to watch college football. When I told her that last night's game was the last college football game of the season, she was very excited. I guess this means that the TV will be permanently tuned to re-runs of Charmed until September.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

One more workout

Upper body lifting, starting with alternating sets of bench presses and bent-over barbell rows, with three minutes rest:

BP: 6 x 135
Row: 6 x 155
BP: 1 x 155
Row: 1 x 175
BP: 6 x 135
Row: 6 x 155
BP: 1 x 165
Row: 1 x 175
BP: 12 x 115
Row: 10 x 135
BP: 18 x 95

The single rep at 165 for the bench press went pretty easily. Given that my PR is 170, I wanted to try 175, which I failed to lift a few weeks ago. But, there was no one in the gym to spot me, and it wasn't worth the risk.

After that superset, I did close grip lat pulldowns, dumbbell shoulder presses, some core work and some dips.

Tonight is a tough squat workout. Tomorrow after work, I'm hoping to do my first snowshoe run of the season.

I am also concerned that I might be coming down with a cold, which would be my second cold of the season so far. After tomorrow, I'm scheduled to ski four straight days - two as an instructor and two as a student, and it's going to be very cold for those days. I'm really not looking forward to being outside all day for four consecutive cold days if I'm sick.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Just keep swimming...

Well, not literally. I have a goal for this month to get myself going in the right direction again. Assuming I stay healthy, I want to work out every day this month. Nothing complicated - just do something every day.

On New Year's Day, I did 30 minutes of stair climber intervals followed by some bodyweight and core work, and some arm lifts.

On Saturday and Sunday, I skied all day.

On Monday, I lifted - deadlift day.

Yesterday, I did a run of just over 3 miles with 6 x 2 minute intervals.

Tonight is an upper body lifting workout.

Just keep moving. After I get back to that daily habit, I have some other "issues" to work on.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Good year or not - looking back, looking ahead

In some ways, last year was my most disappointing athletic year in a long time.

I only ran 846 miles for the year, and only 211 in the last six months of the year. December was my second lowest running month (when reasonably healthy) in the past 25 or so years. My annual running mileage was less than half of my average for the past decade.

I failed to even start a snowshoe marathon last winter when I came down with bronchitis on race week.

I tore a hamstring tendon in April while sprinting in a game of kickball - a meaningless game that made me feel even more stupid about the injury.

I only made it 13 miles in a 50 miler on Memorial Day weekend. I only made it 26 miles at Western States before missing a time cutoff. It's quite likely that this was my last attempt at Western States. The fires of 2008 really stole my best shot at that race; I was fit and ready to go that year.

After Western States, I only raced twice the rest of the year. I ran a very slow 5K and I did a PR on a mountain hill climb. I credit that more to my lifting than any other training.

I had a Platelet Rich Plasma treatment done in September for my hamstring. It helped, but the doctor now thinks a second $900 out-of-pocket treatment is in order. Worse than the money is the pain of the injection itself.

Over the last few months of the year, my diet went to crap, along with some motivation and I weigh 20 pounds more than a year ago. So, overall, I'd say my health and fitness went in the wrong direction last year.

However, there were some very good things that happened last year.

I skied 40 days last year and I can't remember a skiing day that wasn't fun.

While I only ran 112 different days, I lifted 116 times. I greatly increased my strength and ended the year with new PRs in all three of the powerlifts.

I bought a used racing bike and rode that all summer as an alternative to running. My longest ride was just under 50 miles, but I had a number of great shorter rides, including some rides with friends. I'm looking forward to continuing to cycle over the coming summers.

Early in the season, I ran my fastest time ever on the Trail Animal Don't Run Boston 50K course. This was an encouraging start to a running season that got cut short just a week later.

I made a job change, becoming the director of IT for a small startup software company in the area of disease management and chronic care. While we are still young and struggling a bit financially, the work is interesting and meaningful, and I'm glad I made the change.

My family is healthy and doing fine. I've been married to a great woman for more than 23 years now. My son started driving this year and he's doing well in the car, plus he has really improved his grades in school recently. My daughter is an outgoing and popular girl who lives life at 100mph. I get to ski with her on weekends and I really enjoy our time together.

I turned 48 two days ago, so I'm thinking ahead to my 49th year in 2010. Unlike many previous years, I think this year will have very different goals than recent seasons. My goal for the past two years was Western States. This coming year, I want to improve my health. I want to have fun with my training. I want to have my hamstring progress further than it has so far. I need to lose the weight I gained the second half of the year.

For now, I'm going to spend my mid-week days lifting and running. After I'm done skiing for the year, I'll increase the running and add cycling. If I'm having fun as I increase the distances - either running or cycling - that's where I'll focus. But, I simply want to enjoy my workouts rather than being driven by race goals. If I run any ultras at all this year, it will be something short and late in the year.

When I look back at this coming year, I'd like to say that I'm more fit than a year ago. I'd like to see a leaner guy in the mirror. And, I hope I had fun getting there. If that includes racing, I'm fine with that. Or, if I simply spend this season preparing to race in 2011, I'm fine with that as well.