Friday, December 21, 2012

Something bad turned into something good

Tuesday morning started out as a disaster in our household.  The weather was bad and the dirt road where we live was scary to drive.  My son tried to get to work at 5:15, but turned around and came back home, not feeling safe on the road.  He decided he'd try again after the town cinder trucks had been through.

My wife and I were getting ready for work, hoping the cinder truck would be through by 6:30, because we needed to leave early for what promised to be a tough commute.  But, before we could leave, we heard on the radio that a tractor trailer had jackknifed very close to where we enter the interstate and the road was closed.  We considered alternate routes.  The shortest alternate route goes through an environmentally sensitive area - the headwaters of two different wild trout streams, and the road crews rarely use salt on that rolling and winding stretch of road.  Another option would add 20+ miles to our commute.

So, we waited.  Finally, around 7:00, things were looking a little better.  My son was about to leave for work, but he noticed our wood stove kicking out a lot of smoke from the pipe that goes into the chimney.  I opened the stove, and the flames headed right toward me, nearly singing my eyebrows and hair.  Clearly, something wasn't right with the chimney.  We quickly took the fire down, by removing the logs one at a time and throwing them in the new snow in the back yard.  I then shoveled more snow on top of the logs.  We then filled our ash bucket with hot coals and stored that outside, far from the house.  But, by the time we had extinguished the fire, the house was full of smoke.  We opened windows and started some fans to clear the smoke as quickly as possible.

By this point in time, my son had left for work and my daughter was waiting at the top of the driveway for the school bus.  We decided to get in the car and head towards the interstate, hoping it would open soon.

And then, I noticed the volcano on our roof.  We had a chimney fire near the top of the chimney.  Bright ashes were spewing onto the roof and some were smoldering on the roof.  We tried throwing snowballs to hit the ashes with minimal success.  We hooked up a hose and found our outside faucet didn't have the pressure to reach the ashes.  I tried my roof rake, but the handle wasn't long enough.  So, we waited and watched.  Finally, around 9:00, it was drizzling lightly, the fire was out, the smoldering ashes appeared to be out, and we'd heard that the interstate was open again.  We called our neighbors and asked them to do a quick visual inspection in the next hour or so, to be sure the roof wasn't on fire.

At one point in the morning, I had been so frustrated by the whole situation that I'd quoted some lyrics from a Bloodhound Gang song to my wife:

The roof the roof the roof is on fire
The roof the roof the roof is on fire
The roof the roof the roof is on fire
We don't need no water let the motherf*cker burn
Burn motherf*cker burn

It made us laugh in the middle of all of this.  Partly, we remember how much our son loved this song, "Fire Water Burn", when he was younger.  Luckily, FM radio would bleep out some of the words, but our son would sit in his car seat and randomly start singing "The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire".

Of course, by referring to the song lyrics, I didn't mean I wanted the place to burn, and we had pets inside the house, but I was not having a good morning.

We made it to work by 10:00 and worked a bit late that night.  But, something occurred to me much later.  What if that tractor trailer hadn't jackknifed?  We would have all left the house before the smoke started to spew from the stove.

The wood stove was full of burning wood and we have a large sized wood stove that is our primary heat source.  There was no place for the smoke to go.  The fire in the stove would have fueled the fire in the chimney.

In a best case scenario, I'm guessing our house would have filled completely with smoke and our dogs and cats would have been killed, especially the dogs who are in crates during the day and have nowhere to go.  The chimney would have been destroyed by the intense fire, rather than sustaining minimal damage.  And in a worst case scenario, the entire place might have burned down to the ground.

Somehow, a bad morning for a truck driver and a slow road crew and the bad weather all "conspired" to most likely prevent a much bigger problem.  The thought of our dogs suffocating or burning in their kennels is too much to even think about.  The stuff can be replaced.  It would be a hassle, but it could be replaced.  Family pets, some of whom have been with us for a decade or more, cannot simply be replaced.

We skipped CrossFit that night, but had two tough workouts the past two nights.  Last night's workout was one of the toughest I've ever had at CF, and with skiing on the schedule for the weekend, I'm taking today as an unplanned rest day.

Sugarbush has opened some natural snow trails, they got more snow last night, and hopefully, they'll dodge any rain today.  It could be a really fun weekend on the mountain, at least until the deep freeze arrives for Sunday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First Weekend of Teaching Skiing

For the past four seasons, I've had a class of all girls.  After last season, four of those girls were too old to return to the program, and instead, all of them, including my own daughter, because ski school interns this year.  It's nice to see our program not only teach children how to ski, but also producing future instructors.

I had a roster for my class on Saturday morning.  Right now, I'm assigned nine students - 5 girls and four boys.  Basically, it's the returning students from my group the previous year and the returning students of another coach who did not return to the same job.  On Saturday, only the five girls showed up, so it was a day very much like the past few seasons.

While we still have no natural snow trails open (I'm not sure if any natural snow trails are open anywhere in New England yet), we did have a good time skiing on some new man made snow.  Even on the first day of the season, we did a handful of steep, mogul runs on double-black diamond terrain.  I was impressed by how everyone skied.  At the same time, as I watched each student, I began to formulate goals for each of them for the rest of the season.

On Sunday, two of boys in my group showed up.  They are non-identical twin brothers and I'd been warned that they would test me and keep me on my toes.  This was certainly true.  It was a somewhat chilly day, but with some wind and cloud cover and snow, it seemed colder than the thermometer indicated.  The new boys didn't like the fact that others got cold or wanted to take breaks.  It was definitely a challenge finding a balance of terrain that would make everyone happy.  By mid-afternoon, despite protests that they were not tired, I could clearly see that the boys were about done.   It was their first day on skis all season and they were tired.  I used this as an excuse to move to easier terrain.  I also hoped that by being tired, the boys would pay better attention if I did some formal teaching late in the day.

I do almost all of my formal teaching in the mornings, and I tend to teach more on Saturday than Sunday.  A lot of our skiing is simply the application of a lesson into our free skiing.  So, it was very unusual for me to teach a formal lesson to end the weekend.  Yet, it worked very well and I saw some significant improvement in everyone's skiing.  Perhaps this will be a technique I try again.  If everyone forgets everything from a Sunday afternoon lesson though, it might end up being a waste of time.

This weekend was the first time I'd spent an entire ski day on my new skis.  Most of my other days this season had been just a few hours, but I was on the skis from 8:00-3:00 both days.  Overall, I really like my new skis (Volkl RTM-84, 176cm length), but they are a huge change from my previous skis.  In some ways, my previous skis were like a 1970s Cadillac - a smooth, easy ride that required very little of the driver.  The new skis are more like a sports car and they require constant attention.  I'm certainly skiing better on the new skis than I was on my previous pair.  But, the new skis are stiffer than my old skis and transmit "information" from the hard snow up my legs very well.  They also require more effort to "drive" them, so I'm finding myself more tired after the ski day than I was a year ago.  I'm sure this will dissipate over time, as I spend more time on these skis.  But so far, my legs feel a bit abused.

On Monday, I made a visit to the chiropractor before CrossFit.  Apparently, most of the problems I am having with my shoulders are starting in the AC joint.  He doesn't think it's a true injury, but rather stress placed on that joint due to a lack of mobility in other areas of my body.  He did a few adjustments, and we spent a fair amount of time working with a foam roller and with lacrosse balls to work on areas that were very tight.  The workout didn't seem to go any better than normal, and I even abandoned part of the warm-up because of how my shoulders felt.  But, I did finally have a night where I slept well and pain in my shoulders did not keep me awake for most of the night.

The main part of the workout included 25 consecutive deadlift reps at 225 pounds.  My legs are complaining a little bit today, mostly due to the deadlifts.

Tonight, my "abused" legs get to to heavy back squats, moderate front squats, rope climbs, burpees and kettlebell swings at CF.  By the time I hit my next scheduled rest day on Friday, I'm sure I'll be thrilled to have the day off.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The weeks just keep rolling on

I mentioned earlier this week that my wife and I had been in Boston over the weekend.  We got back home on Sunday evening.  And since we got home, it's been all about work and CrossFit.

Monday was a workout based on squat snatches and it beat up my shoulders and quads.  Tuesday had lots of squats, plus pull-ups and burpees, but I survived that one OK.  Last night was power snatches, clean and jerks, and then heavy deadlifts alternated with box jumps.  My legs were vibrating after that one.

Tonight, there is no pure strength work.  Instead, in 30 minutes, we repeat the following sequence as many times as possible:

15' rope climb
5 shoulder to overhead barbell presses (any technique allowed)
10 toes to bar
15 calories of rowing on the Concept 2

And then tomorrow, I'm taking a rest day.  Saturday will be my first ski day with paying customers this year, and I want a rest day beforehand.

Last ski season, I tended to take Monday and Friday off from CrossFit.  Monday was a recovery day after skiing, and Friday was a rest day to prep for teaching on the weekend.  Right now, I think I'm in good enough shape that I can do CF Monday through Thursday during ski season.

It looks like I'm going to make it to my goal of 150 CF workouts for this year.  Today will be #144.

I'm still trying to decide how many days I should shoot for next year.  I did 108 CF workouts last year, so I will have an increase of more than 40 days this year.  I think 180 is a reasonable goal for next year, but that is 15 days per month.  Basically that means 4 per week for 36 weeks, 3 per week for 12 weeks, and allows me four rest weeks during the course of the year, for vacations, illness, injury, etc.

Speaking of injury, my shoulders are really beat up by all of the Olympic lifting we are doing.  I'm not sure if I'm injured, but I'm sore a lot, and the soreness is affecting my sleep.  A couple years ago, I worked with a local chiropractor who uses Graston Technique and Active Release Technique to work on shoulders.  He is about to start doing one day per week at our CF gym.  He wants to focus on movement assessment, with primary emphases on mobility and stability.  He would then tailor treatments and supplemental exercises to focus on those two goals.  I have a feeling that I'm going to be spending a lot of time with him over the next few months.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Another week of the same

We started a new 10 week cycle at CrossFit last week.  We are focusing on Olympic lifts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, plus we are doing squats every Tuesday.  Each of those days has a short metabolic workout after the strength sets.

I made it to CF five times last week - Monday through Friday.  That was deliberate for two reasons.  First, my goal at the beginning of the year was to get to CF 150 times this year, and I started the month 15 workouts from that goal.  Right now, I'm 10 away.  Secondly, I knew I'd be out of town for the weekend, so a workout over the weekend was unlikely.  One workout option for the weekend would have been a workout at CrossFit Fenway, but they charge $40 for a non-member to drop in for a workout.  I simply can't justify paying that much for a group workout.  Even in Manhattan, I paid $25 as a drop-in.  It wasn't cheap, but it was much more palatable than $40.

I have to say that I've been worried about an extended period of time focused on the Oly lifts, especially the snatch, and supporting lifts such as the overhead squat.  My shoulders are seriously lacking in mobility, so the snatch and OH squat are very tough lifts for me.  But, so far, the volume and weights haven't been too bad, and my shoulders survived the week.  This morning, I ran into the chiropractor who helped me with a rotator cuff injury last year (ART and Graston work, mostly), and we talked about getting together to do a mobility and stability evaluation, and then come up with a plan to keep my shoulders a bit more healthy overall.

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to Boston.  We stayed with my niece and her boyfriend near Kenmore Square.  Their living room faces the big Citgo sign right outside of Fenway, and that sign made it difficult for me to sleep on Saturday night.  It is seriously bright when you are really close.  My brother and his roommate were also in Boston.  Our excuse for the get-together was a hockey game - Maine at Boston University.  We are all hockey fans, but mostly, we just wanted to hang out for the weekend.

The game turned out to be really exciting.  Early on, it looked like BU was going to steamroll Maine, but after giving up a power play goal in the first, Maine tightened up their defense.  And, at times, BU looked a little bit sloppy.  That first period goal by Garrett Noonan held up in a 1-0 game.  Noonan is a name NHL fans should probably remember, because he will probably be there in a couple years, assuming the NHL owners ever decide to let the players play.

We stayed up way later than normal on Saturday night and then that stupid sign made it tough for me to sleep.  On Sunday, we took my niece and her boyfriend to a place called Eastern Standard for brunch.  It's one of my favorite places in that part of the city, and we had a really nice brunch.

After that, we drove home, got some groceries on the way, and I cooked dinner.  I fell asleep on the couch before 7:45 and I was in bed shortly thereafter.  So, I think I'm caught up on sleep, and I'm looking forward to CrossFit later today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hmmm, what should I write about this time?

It's December.  So, it's ski season.  It's always CrossFit season.

With the warmer weather we've had the past two days, some local friends have been out fly fishing and I've seen photos of a few nice trout and steelhead taken in Lake Champlain tributaries.  But, I think I'm done with  fly fishing until spring.

Christmas is coming.  But, I'm so busy at work that even on 12/4, I've barely thought about Christmas.  Work is really busy and  money seems to be getting tight at our little company.  This is not the ideal time of the year to be closing deals, but we really need for that to happen soon.  Maybe worries about the company have tempered my enthusiasm for Christmas.

The election is still over.  But, the never ending battles in Washington continue.  "Blamestorming" is still the way it all works.  Just yell louder than the other guy and blame things on him.  Truth be damned.  (And I mean to direct this at both sides.)

But, I've been skiing.  I've been doing CrossFit.  As long as it snows, the mountain is always there, ready for me to spend a day working or relaxing on the slopes.

And while CrossFit isn't necessarily relaxing, it's always there to test me.

Over the weekend, I trained some of our younger ski instructors.  On Saturday and Sunday, I had 8 female high school students with me, all of whom will be coaching our younger students.  I thought we had two good days on the snow, and I'm hoping their enthusiasm carries over into their teaching when we start with students in two weekends.  The weather got a little ugly late in the weekend and it's still that way.  But, the rain will end, it will get colder, the snow guns will make more snow, and it will snow eventually.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the ski season, especially the time spent with my season-long students.

One of my goals for CrossFit this year was 150 workouts.  At the end of May, I had only done 50 CF workouts, which really put that in doubt.  But, I've picked it up since then, and I need 14 more workouts this month to get to 150.  I think my goal for next year will be 175-180, but I don't ever really see myself doing more than that in a year.

Last night was the start of a 10 week Olympic lifting program at CF.  We worked on the clean and jerk last night.  We did 3x1 of light weight C&Js, going through the full range of motion - squat cleans followed by a split jerk.  Then we did 3x3 of clean pulls and 3x3 of clean deadlifts.  After that, we did 21-15-9 reps each of deadlifts, toes to bar, and kettlebell swings.  I probably kept my weight a little bit too light for this workout and finished in just over 7 minutes.

Tonight is heavy back squats, moderate front squats, and then a short workout that includes burpees, lateral bar hops, muscle snatches and overhead squats.  My shoulders will probably be unhappy after this one.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Interesting CrossFit Week

Next week, we are going to start a 10-12 week cycle focused on the Olympic lifts.  This weekend, our gym is hosting a regional competition,  Despite getting ready for both of those, our coach put together a very interesting workout schedule this week.

Basically, each day, we did one of the power lifts in a 5533-max sequence.  On Monday, it was back squats, starting at 70% and ending at 90%.  I lifted a little bit lighter than prescribed for reasons I'll mention below, but it was still a demanding workout - both mentally and physically.  Doing max reps - essentially going to failure - on that last heavy set is taxing.

After the back squats, we did a short and simple metabolic segment - 10 minutes of mostly light weights or body-weight work.

Tuesday, we did a similar workout with strict presses.  The exception was that after failing in the fifth set, we then proceeded, with no rest, to do max push presses.  I managed to get 5 strict presses and then 8 more push presses and my shoulders were not happy about that.

Then, another short workout after the strength workout.

The pattern has repeated all week.  Wednesday was front squats.  Yesterday was the bench press, but after failing on the fifth set, you did three assisted reps.  I managed 6 reps before failing, and on the third unassisted rep, my arms simply collapsed.  I was done.

Because I'll be skiing all weekend and I've worked out for six straight days, today is a rest day.  The movement tonight is deadlifts - one of my favorite lists.  But, trying to do max reps at 375 pounds would probably crush me for skiing this weekend, so rest is a good idea.

In the past month or so, I've been deliberately decreasing some of my higher weight efforts at the gym.  I started with the testosterone supplementation in late May, and after years of having low levels, I was shocked at how much of a difference I felt in the gym.  From June through September and even into early October, it seemed like I could get a PR every workout.  But, gains like this have to level out after a while, and I have been trying to be smart about avoiding injuries.  So, a little over a month ago, I made a conscious effort to dial back some of the heavier lifts.  I plan to continue that through the month of December, and then go back to pushing the weights a bit harder.

I am trying to be conscious that I'm using the supplemental testosterone because I have a deficiency in my body otherwise.  I'm not using it for purely anabolic reasons, with the goal of getting "huge" or outrageously strong.  If that was my entire focus, I think I'd be overlooking the other benefits of the medication, and trying to get something else from its use.

So, backing off for a bit makes some sense, especially as I transition into ski season.  After I've been on skis for six weeks or so, and the holidays are past, I'll go back to a more focused strength bias in my workouts.

This weekend, I'm training younger instructors at the mountain.  The group that I'll be working with is apparently a dozen or so high school aged girls.  I need to convey to them that what we do has value far beyond just their students, that doing it well helps the rest of the ski school in the future, and that a job that takes up your entire weekend for the entire winter is fun and exciting and worth doing well every single day.  In many ways, teaching ski lessons to children is way, way simpler than teaching other instructors how to teach.  But, I'm looking forward to the challenge.  And, we got a fair amount of natural snow at the mountain this week.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Skiing and CrossFit

After my last post, ultra-runner-extraordinaire Laurel commented that improvements in my skiing might be related to increased core strength from all of the CrossFit work I've done this year.  I've been thinking about that for a week or so.  I've even skied twice more since that post and Laurel's comment, which gave me more time to think about it.

Here are some comparisons to a year ago:

  • My weight is up but my body fat percentage is down.
  • My running mileage for the year is way down for the third consecutive year and this is my lowest mileage year since 1984.
  • I ran zero running races this year - the first time since 1984
  • My total workouts for this year are very close to last year, but the focus has been more on CrossFit and less on aerobic activity.  Two thirds of my workout days this year have included CrossFit.
  • My CrossFit workouts for this year have totaled 134.  My total for all of last year was 108, and I'll probably get to 150 or so this year.  
  • I am stronger than a year ago in all lifts.  This is probably due to both the extra work in the gym and the supplemental testosterone
  • I have spent way more time on stretching this past year than I have in many years - maybe since 2002 or so, when I was going to yoga 2-3 times per week.
In a totally non-scientific way, it appears to me that something about CF is the major difference in how I feel on snow.  I must also not forget that I moved to a much higher level "expert's" ski for this season, and that has certainly had an impact.

It is interesting that for many years, I thought that all of my running was preparing me well for ski season.  And now, heading into my 12th season as an instructor, I'm left wondering if that was all wishful thinking.

An article published in the WSJ this week has many of my running friends up in arms, because the article suggested that running a lot may have long-term detrimental effects on the heart.

There seems to be a particular way that interesting new studies are perceived by the net denizens:

1) I agree with the conclusion already.  No need to look any further.  I don't care if the study methodology is flawed because I know the conclusion is correct.
2) I disagree with it, and as an experiment of one who has seen contrary results so far, I can dismiss it.
3) The study was performed by a person with a bias, so it can be ignored.
4) The study was flawed, so I'll dismantle it or wait for someone else to do it.

Now, I don't disagree that there is a lot of poor quality science performed in the world.  And, I have my own biases, and I'm not immune to the four steps above.  What worries me is that we've become a nation of people incapable of critical thinking.  We think too much with our "gut" and not with our brains.

Over the last four years, I have drastically changed how I work out.  I have changed how I eat.  I've also addressed some key medical issues.  And my life is a lot different.  I have the records (workout logs and my blog) to go back in time and look at things.  And yet, I can only guess when it comes to cause and effect.  Those guesses are not immune from my personal biases.  Whatever my workout routine is right now, it must be the best.  Whatever skis I'm on, they must be the best.  Whatever my diet is right now..  Oh, never mind on that one; I'm still trying to get better.

I think we should all question everything.  Question every study.  Question every politician, every law, every policy.  But, we should find a rational way to do this, and I think that this is a lost art/science.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Skiing vs. Running

This past Sunday was my first day on snow for the 2012-2013 ski season.  I spent the day in a group of 8 skiers, and all of them are very strong skiers and instructors.  I was on a new pair of skis and it took me a while to get comfortable with the skis.  But, I was very surprised by some comments I received from co-workers.  One person described my skiing stance and style as very relaxed.  This really surprised me, to be honest.  I tend to be way too static most of the time.

Another person, a mentor of mine, with whom I've skied hundreds of times, made positive comments about my stance and my turns.  It was the first day of the season, but he said I was skiing as well as he's ever seen me ski.  Then, he asked me how much I'm running these days.  I told him that I'm running very little, especially in comparison to past years.  After averaging about 1800 miles per year for 25 years, my mileage has really dropped off the last couple years.

This year is the first year I haven't done any running races since 1984.

At CrossFit, we spend close to 15 minutes every day doing a warm-up (the warm-up varies every day) that is highly focused on mobility and flexibility.  Plus, many of the movements at CF are very dynamic compared to steady state running.

In addition to the prescribed stretches at CF, I often add stretches to focus on ankle dorsiflexion, gastroc tightness, hamstring flexibility and hip mobility.  These are all areas where I think that a multi-decade running career has robbed me of flexibility.

It certainly doesn't hurt that I am very strong right now.  But, I am also more flexible than I've been in years.

My new skis are also much more an expert ski than the skis I've been on the past few years.  With some new features in the ski, plus a lot of structural rigidity and stability, I'm sure they have helped my skiing.

But, my friend commented that my stance is the best he's ever seen.  I was very upright and forward - a strong athletic stance.

Maybe it's early in the season and he doesn't have his eyes dialed in yet.  Maybe it was the new skis.

But, for years, I've been criticized (not in a malicious way) by co-workers for being too rigid, not relaxed, not flexed into the boots at the ankles, and not fluid in my knees and hips.  Sunday was different.  Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come - even better skiing this year than in the past.

Late in the day, we did two runs on an expert level trail that was essentially steep ice.  I know that the new skis helped here, but I skied terrain like this as relaxed as I have ever skied it.  In the past, after seeing that terrain once, I would have never voluntarily skied it again.  But, I did, and the second time was even more enjoyable and controlled than the first.

Hopefully, this is all a harbinger of a good ski season.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Colbert Report - Election Night

When I scored tickets to see The Colbert Report live on election night, I knew I had to go.  I'd tried to get tickets a few times in the past, but the servers always crashed and I never got any tickets.  But, amazingly, for the week of the election, the servers behaved very well, and I accidentally got two seats to a live broadcast.  Typically, the show is taped in advance, but a live show on election night sounded like way too much fun to pass up.

My son and I boarded the train only a couple miles from home on election morning.  I'd already voted that morning and been to the doctor's office.  Whatever illness I'd had for the prior week had settled into my lungs and I was coughing a lot.  I was honestly concerned that I'd be kicked out of the show if I coughed a lot during a live broadcast.

Our train trip to Manhattan was long (8 hours), but very comfortable and relaxing.  I tried to get as much election info as I could, but I knew nothing meaningful would emerge until after 7:00 EST.  We got to Penn Station around 6:30, walked a mile uptown to our hotel (very close to that crane that self-destructed during the hurricane), checked in, and headed out for some dinner before the show.

Since we were in Manhattan, finding decent food was not a problem and we had a really nice meal in a "gastropub" in midtown west.  I had a great salad, and bison meatloaf topped with a gravy made with Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout.  The mashed potatoes that came with the meat loaf were amazing.  My son's dinner was equally good and we were on our way to the studio by 8:30 or so.

By 10:15 or so, our phones had to be turned off.  So, just about the time that PA was called for Obama, and with VA and Ohio very much undecided, we lost contact with the outside world.  We were surprised by how small the studio was once we were inside.

Stephen Colbert's roots are in improv, and the staff really emphasized to us that the audience makes the show in many ways, and Colbert feeds off the energy of the audience.  They even sent out a comedian to warm up the audience.  Then, Colbert did a Q&A session, out of character, although out-of-character didn't seem far from the role he plays in the show.

The show itself was fantastic.  I got to see exactly what I'd hoped to see - his satirical character lamenting the loss of the election to the evil Obama.  It was genius.  During an interview with Andrew Sullivan, he even threw out the "we weren't conservative enough" and "I never really liked that flip-flopper anyway" story lines.  In 30 minutes, he basically previewed all of Fox News' story lines for the next week.

And just that quickly, the show was over.  We watched some returns on TV for a while, including the concession (it's hard for me to really call it a concession speech, but that's a different topic) and acceptance speeches.  Early the next morning, I walked to CrossFit Hell's Kitchen and got in a good workout.  The night before, not wanting to have to use the bathroom during the show, I'd vastly under-consumed liquids, and I was a little dehydrated for the workout.  I was even cramping a bit late in the workout.  After a shower and a cup of coffee, my son and I walked around Central Park for a while and we then walked down 5th Avenue to Penn Station.  We grabbed some pizza, boarded our train, and by dinnertime, we were home.

We both agreed that despite the whirlwind nature of the trip, it had been well worth the cost and time.

Since then, I've continued to recover from whatever illness got a hold of me over two weeks ago.  I'm still not 100%, but managed four workouts last week and tonight will be my third this week.

This coming weekend, Sugarbush opens for the season, and I'll have my first day on snow on Sunday.  I just got a new pair of skis yesterday and I can't wait to take them out for a spin.

Monday, November 5, 2012

One week later

I've probably forgotten everything I wanted to write about regarding Henry Rollins.  I did love his positive outlook on life and the likelihood of the human race fixing the world before we manage to destroy it. I loved some of the anecdotes from his speaking tours - discussions about raw conversations and sad conversations, where the humanity of the conversation simply transcended politics or race or religion or any other label that could be used.

I liked some of the information about his early days with Ian MacKaye and the genesis of the punk movement in the US.  My son is a huge fan of MacKaye, so he really appreciated these stories.

He urged everyone to vote.  Get educated if you aren't already.  My son is 19 and has no plans to vote tomorrow and I'm really disappointed in that decision.  I hoped Henry Rollins would sway him, but it's not going to happen.  I understand the cynicism that goes with being 19 years old.  But, I voted in my first Presidential election in 1980 at age 18, and I think I've only missed one election since then.  I got stuck at work very late in 1988 and never made it to the polls.

One particular anecdote about Austin City Limits, a poster created by a local artist, and the donation of money to the local Planned Parenthood office was hysterical.  Henry was essentially suggesting that given our country's political divides, some solid family planning in Texas might prevent that state from gaining any more electoral power.  But, the way he told the story was fantastic.

He talked for 2.5 hours and was never boring for a second.  I'd urge anyone to see him if you can.

I have been sick for a solid week now.  I am not close to 100%, and I see no way that CrossFit will happen tonight.

Tomorrow, my son and I leave for Manhattan, to see the Colbert Report's live broadcast on election night.  I have a reservation to work out Wednesday morning at CrossFit Hell's Kitchen, and that may be my next workout.

And right now, it's back to the grindstone so I can finish a huge amount of work before I leave for the next two days.

Please remember to vote.  It does matter, or at least I like to continue to believe that it does.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Henry Rollins, Hurricane and Sick

The Henry Rollins talk on Friday night was amazing.  He talked for about 2.5 hours and I have so many thoughts from the show that I'd like to write down.

But, I'm getting sick right now and I doubt I can even work out tonight.

Work is somewhere between frustrating and infuriating right now.

And, we have that hurricane thing to deal with.

I'll write more when I'm feeling better.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Time for a rest day

CrossFit last night was difficult and yet very satisfying.  The first part of the workout was a 15 minute segment called "Work Your Weakness".  In reality, just about everything at CF except for the power lifts is a weakness for me.  I was going to do burpees - 5 reps every minute for the 15 minutes, but the coach suggested that we do a more strength-oriented movement.  Given how many parts of my body were already tired and sore, I struggled for a while to pick something that was a weakness but that wouldn't hurt too much to perform.  I finally settled on power cleans - 2 per minute at 155# - just under 85% of my current 1-rep max of 185#.

These lifts went OK, although I did fail on one rep as I was working on form, and a change in one part of the lift caused me to "forget" another part.  I did an extra rep there to make up for the failure.

The main workout looked fairly innocuous, but it is exactly the kind of workout where I typically struggle:

5 rounds, as quickly as possible:
Run 200 meters
20 box jumps
20 ball slams

This is not a strength based workout.  It is a lung burner though.

My first round took about 4:00.  Times on the board from earlier classes showed times from about 13:00 to just over 20:00.  If the first round took 4:00, I figured I was heading to the slowest workout of the day.  There were three people in the class from the latest On-Ramp class - the newbies in our gym.  My wife was one of those three.  By the end of the second round, two of the three were ahead of me.  Yeah, they were using a different height box and different weight slam ball, but I was at the back of the class.

But, by pacing things well, I found that I didn't really slow down.  In the fourth round, I missed a box jump attempt and almost face planted, but I managed to remain upright.  Overall, I was very pleased by my pacing on the 100 box jumps, which was the toughest part of the workout for me.

In the end, I managed to finish ahead of two people, in a time of 19:05.  I know that I shouldn't compare my results to others, but it's a natural thing to do.  Of the people who finished behind me, one was a new member who is older than I am.  The other person who finished behind me is pregnant and I'm sure she didn't go all out.

I'm pretty tired today.  I've been averaging six workouts a week for the past month or so, and it's starting to take its toll.  My son and I are going to see Henry Rollins speak tonight, so that creates a natural rest day for me.  This weekend, I have some work to do around the house to get ready for winter and the potential storm next week.  I still have about 1.5 cords of firewood  to stack.  So, I'll probably be active,  but I won't be in the gym.

I hope to get in an easy run or hike at least once this weekend.  And I'm hoping to get out fly fishing at least once this weekend.  But overall, I'm hoping that my body feels a bit more recovered by the time I get to the gym on Monday night.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bench presses

Yesterday's workout was 7x1 heavy bench presses, followed by this:

Rep scheme of 21-15-9, done for time:
Handstand push-ups

I have never been very good at bench presses.  Even when I was lifting on my own (this was when I was still focusing most of my training on running long distances), I did lots of squats and deadlifts, and less upper body pulling or pressing work.  My main thought, at that point in time, was that lifts that made my legs stronger would help me with my running and skiing, but upper body lifts would not help as much.  I didn't ignore upper body lifts, but I gave them less focus.  I would frequently use an upper body gym session as something to do when I was too tired to do more important stuff, like squats or deadlifts or sprints.  But, when I did upper body work, bench presses were usually part of that workout.

Along the way, I did manage to make some progress in the bench press, and I eventually got to 175 pounds.  I tried 185 a few times and never came close.  The gym where I was lifting at the time had no 2.5 pound wheels, so trying 180 wasn't an option.

When I started doing CrossFit just over two years ago, I stopped lifting on my own most of the time.  In the latter part of 2010, I went to CF 18 times and lifted on my own another 8 times.  In 2011, I went to CF 108 times and lifted on my own another 21 times.  This year, I've gone to CF 120 times and lifted on my own only 9 days.  So, my percentage of lifting workouts done on my own has gone from 31% for a partial year, to 15% for last year to 7% this year.  Those numbers are only relevant because I tend to bench press on my solo gym days away from CF a lot more than we do bench press at CrossFit.  This means, even fewer bench press days in the past couple years.

I also injured my shoulder late last February and the recovery has been somewhat slow.  But, in the past 6-8 weeks, it seems that the shoulder is doing a lot better.  Bench presses are no longer painful.  Until two months ago, I hadn't lifted over 95# in the bench press in quite a while.  But, then, I had a workout where I surprised myself by getting to 125#.  In another, I got to 155#.  So, last night, I had no idea what to expect.  So, I simply started at 125# and kept adding weight:

125, 135, 145, 155, 165, 175 (tying my old PR and it felt easy), and 185 (fairly easy).  We were about out of time but my lifting partner said I needed to do one more rep.  I got conservative here and tried 190.  I struggled a bit, but got it.  I am pretty sure I can do 200 pounds right now, if I do fewer total reps on the way to that number.  Considering how sore I was, getting a PR made me feel great.

For "Diane", I made some adjustments.  Instead of the prescribed 225# deadlifts, I opted for 185#.  I can't do handstand push-ups, so there were a few other options - band-assisted HSPUs, stinkbugs, barbell strict press, dumbbell strict press, etc.

I opted for 2x30# DB strict presses and finished in under 5 minutes.  My previous attempt at this workout had been in May and I was way faster this time, but I'd changed some parameters.  Overall, I think it was a better effort.

Tonight is 15 minutes of "work your weakness" aka "pick your poison".  I will probably do 5 burpees, every minute, on the minute, for 15 minutes.

After that, some running, box jumps and ball slams - a fairly fast workout that should challenge the lungs more than the the muscles.

Tomorrow is a rest day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What doesn't hurt?

My hamstring is feeling better and handled the CrossFit workout last night, but it's not 100%.

Last night's workout was as follows:

7 x 1 power snatch, trying to attain a new 1 rep max.  My old PR was 115#, I believe.  I did singles at 95, 100, 105, 115, 120, and 125.  I then failed three times at 135.  After the failures, I dropped to 115 and did more single reps.

Then, 3 rounds, as quickly as possible:
10 power snatches at 95#
20 pull-ups (band assisted)
30 wall-balls (14# ball)

My time was 14:41.  The first round took about 4 minutes, but I slowed dramatically on all three segments after the first round.

Today, my shoulders are sore from doing snatches two days in a row, especially trying to do heavy (for me) snatches.

My elbows are sore from pull-ups.  I think my elbows still haven't fully recovered from the 150 pull-ups in "Eva" last Wednesday.  

My glutes are sore from the back squats on Monday.  It wasn't the squat weight that caused this.  For me, doing 10x2 at 255 pounds is not exceptionally difficult.  It was the 5 second hold in the bottom position for each squat that left me sore.

Hamstring, glutes, elbows, shoulders.  Is there anything that doesn't hurt?

Tonight's workout includes bench presses, deadlifts and strict presses.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tweaked Hamstring

In May of 2009, I was playing kickball with my brother and some college kids after Penn State's spring football game.  It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been to a Penn State game that there was alcohol involved.

At one point in the game, I kicked a weak grounder to the pitcher (if that's what they are called in kickball).  Not wanting to be shown up by college kids, I sprinted for all I was worth down the first base line.  A few feet before reaching the base, I felt a pain in my hamstring, somewhat like I would imagine it would feel like to be shot by a gun or a bow and arrow.  I went down hard in a heap, knowing I'd hurt my hamstring badly.

That injury may very well be the reason I'm not running ultras any more.  It has gotten better, and after a platelet rich plasma treatment in the summer of 2009 to treat a partially torn tendon, I would guess that I function at 90% of my previous level.  I can still do sprint workouts.  I can lift heavy.  I can run and ride my bike.  But, every once in a while, the hamstring will act up and I need to curtail my activity for a while.

I did a good weight workout last Friday after work.  Essentially, I did the CrossFit workout that I'd missed on Thursday, although I made the strength portion (push presses) harder than prescribed.  On Saturday, I did a sprint workout - 10 x 100 meters.  The workout went well, although I was surprised that my quads felt a bit sore while sprinting.

Saturday night, I noticed that my left hamstring felt a bit sore.  On Sunday, I had my first day of pre-season ski instructor training, plus the weather was miserable, so I gladly took a rest day.  The hamstring felt fine when I got to CrossFit last night.

The first part of our workout last night was a ten minute time window to establish a one rep max muscle snatch.  We don't do this lift often, and I struggled with form.  I started my serious efforts at 95 pounds and I got to 120 pounds.  At 120 pounds, my elbow lockout was a bit shaky, so it might not have been a legal rep.  I failed badly at 125 pounds and I was done with that part of the workout.

Next, we did 10x2 of back squats at 70% of our one rep max, which is 255 pounds for me.  We did the sets every minute on the minute.  And, just to make it really fun, we paused for 5 seconds at the bottom of each squat.  This is an uncomfortable position that really forces you to keep a tight core and a strong vertical spine.  About the 5th set, I noticed that my hamstring was not happy.  By the 8th set, I was thinking about quitting, as the hamstring got worse.  But, I (probably foolishly) continued to the end.

After the squats, our workout was "Annie", one of the newer girl WODs.  This workout is named for Annie Sakamoto, one of the original CF "Nasty Girls".  She is one tough competitor and has finished as high as third in the CrossFit games, I believe.  At age 36, Annie still looks and performs like the elite athlete that she is.  But, the Annie workout is not what many would think.  It's not about strength.  It's not highly gymnastic.  Instead, it's a somewhat short lung burner:

50 double unders (rope jumping, but the rope goes underfoot twice per jump)
50 Abmat sit-ups
40 double unders
40 sit-ups
10 double unders
10 sit-ups

I'm still working on double unders.  Or perhaps I should say I'm not working on them enough, because I haven't perfected them yet.  Normally, for people who can't do double-unders, we do single unders and then 50% more reps of tuck jumps.  Because the tuck jump is performed by pulling the knee towards the chest, I was afraid it would bother my hamstring.  So, I simply doubled the number of double-unders and did singles.

I got through this in 10:16.  My last Annie had been the tuck jump variation, and I'd done 10:52.  I think the method I used last night was slower, so I was happy with my time.

My wife completed the CrossFit introductory program last Thursday.  On Friday, she did her first real CF workout.  Last night was her second.  Doing 150 sit-ups in a workout when you haven't been doing them is really difficult.  She finished last in our class, but true to the supportive nature of our gym, she had lots of people cheering for her at the end.  She finished in about 12:40 and I think she's pretty sore today.  She's also hooked on CF already.

Tonight's workout includes power snatches, pull-ups and wall-balls.  I think my hamstring will be OK for all but the heaviest snatches, and I'll give it a go.  But, if the hamstring complains at all, tonight, I'll simply walk away from the workout or find something else to do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Another of those tired and sore days

Wednesday night, as I wrote, we did a workout called "Eva".  The toughest part of that workout for me was the 150 total pull-ups, even broken into sets of 30 and done with assistance bands.  In reality, I borke each set of 30 into multiple sets, simply resting between my mini-sets.  Yesterday, my arms were just fried.  Not just tired, but seriously sore muscles, especially my biceps.  My legs weren't too bad, but they were a little tired from tough workouts earlier in the week and the 5 x 800m runs on Wednesday.

So, I took a rest day yesterday.

This is the workout I skipped yesterday:

5x5 push press

Then, for time:
Row 1000m
75 jump-rope double unders
50 box jumps
25 hands-off-the-floor push ups (drop until your chest hits the floor and lift your hands briefly to prove you're as low as you can go)
10 lateral box-jump burpees (do a burpee, and instead of jumping straight up to finish it, jump laterally over a box, do another burpee, another lateral jump, etc.)

On Wednesday evening, I had predicted to my wife that we would do a workout called Karen on Thursday.  Karen is 150 wall-balls for time.  Essentially, a wall-ball is a front squat holding a medicine ball, and then standing up and using the momentum from standing up to "shot put" the med ball to a mark on a wall that is 10' from the ground.

I was off a day in my prediction, and today is Karen, along with heavy front squats.

I'm working from home today, so I will go to the local gym after work today, rather than CF.  There are no medicine balls there, so I think I'll do yesterday's workout instead.

Tomorrow, I hope to find a break in the rain and get outside for some sprint work.

Sunday, I have my first day of pre-season work at Sugarbush - filling out paperwork, HR orientation, and some basic training - all requirements  before we start skiing with students in December.  Hopefully, I'll get in a workout on Sunday after the training - something like a moderately paced 8K of rowing.

It's going to be a wet weekend, so getting outdoors for workouts might be unpleasant.  And, with up to an inch of rain expected today, fly fishing is probably out of the question for the weekend.  I did see two photos of nice fish caught in VT this morning - one a beautiful rainbow taken in a tributary of the Lamoille river, and the other a nice brown from Otter Creek.  The last fish picture I posted here was a decent brown I caught in Otter Creek, but I haven't been back there since then.  But, today's rain will likely render the rivers unfishable for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CrossFit Eva

There are three main types of "WOD"s (Workout of the Day) in CrossFit.  First, and probably most common in our gym are the WODs that our trainer makes up or pulls from the main CrossFit web site or another gym's site.

Secondly, and done least frequently, are the "hero" WODs.  These workouts tend to be very long and difficult.  They are named for fallen heroes, usually soldiers, fire fighters or policemen.  A good example of a Hero WOD is Murph: Run a mile, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 air squats (you can do these bodyweight exercises in any order that you like, such as 20 rounds of 5-10-15), and then run another mile.    Because of how taxing the hero WODs are, we do them fairly infrequently.

Lastly, and best know are the WODs known simply as The Girls.  Last Friday, we did Fran.  Tuesday was Grace.  Last night was Eva.  Eva is an interesting workout.  Technically, it's one of the "girls", but in reality, it's more like a typical hero workout.  For me, it might be the longest duration of the girls.  The workout looks simple:

5 rounds, as quickly as possible:
Run 800 meters
30 Kettlebell swings
30 pull-ups

It's very important to keep good form on the KB swings.  If you are sloppy and let your back become rounded, you can really torch your lower back, which makes the running segments even worse.  But for me, the worst part of the workout is doing 150 total pull-ups.  Even with assistance bands, that's a lot of pull-ups.

I spent most of yesterday dreading the workout.  When I got to the gym, I wasn't any more focused or interested in Eva.  But, once we got started, I simply powered my way through it.

I think my first round was about 8 minutes, the second about 9, and I averaged just under 10 minutes per round after that, for a total time of 45:51.  Today, my legs are tired, but what really hurts is my biceps from the pull-ups.

Tonight's workout is a bit easier - 5x5 push presses and then a mix of rowing, rope jumping box jumps, push-ups, burpees, and lateral box jumps.  It won't be easy, but after today, tomorrow will be a much earned rest day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CrossFit and Morrissey

As far as I know, Morrissey does not do CrossFit.  But, I saw Morrissey last night, and before the show, I left work a bit early to get to CrossFit.

I was surprised at the strength dominance of the workout after our heavy workout on Monday.  We started with 7x1 Power Cleans, with a goal of setting a single rep PR.  For a long time, due to a shoulder injury, I'd been stuck on 175# for my max in this lift.  About a month ago, I managed a shaky rep at 185.  Last night, after my warm-up, I did reps at 145, 155, 165, 175, 180, 185 and 190.  I really focused on two things.  First, I wanted to make sure the bar was moving vertically the entire time and not swinging in front of my body.  Secondly, I wanted to improve my speed getting under the bar as the bar neared its apex.  When we do squat cleans, your feet have to move during the drop under the bar, and they have to move from a neutral stance to a wider squat stance.  But, with a power clean, the feet don't need to move quite so far, and you don't need to open your stance.  So, I focused on quick feet and a quick drop.  It was interesting to do this, because just as I'd feel I was about to fail on each rep - as the bar stopped moving upwards - I was quickly underneath the bar and supporting it.  From there, I simply had to stand up from the quarter squat position to a fully upright position, and I had the rep.  I'll probably never be really great on form with the Olympic lifts, but last night was a definite improvement.

After the power cleans, we did a workout named Grace - 30 clean and jerks (any type of clean, any type of jerk allowed) as quickly as possible.  The standard weight for men is 135 pounds, but I used 115 instead.  I was able to do the 30 reps in 4:31.  I basically used power cleans with a push press for the first 15 or so reps and then transitioned to a push jerk for the later reps.

After the workout, my wife and I went to see Morrissey with some friends.  I've been a fan of the Smiths for a long, long time, but I never saw them in concert.  Morrissey was their lead singer, but he's also done a lot of solo work.  On his current tour, he's been skipping most of the Smiths' stuff (same four Smiths' songs every show) and even skipping some of his own biggest hits.  The show was pretty much as expected, until the encore.  He'd been playing a song called Still Ill as his encore every night, but last night, this song was in the main set.  This had everyone hoping for How Soon is Now, the Smiths' biggest hit, as his encore, and he delivered.  It was an amazing version of the song, and this video doesn't do it justice:

My ears are still ringing a bit this morning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

CrossFit Total

CrossFit Total is a workout we do fairly infrequently at CF.  I don't remember why, but I know I missed it that last time we did it.  I might have missed more than one.  Last night was the first time I'd done this workout since May 9, 2011.

The workout is fairly simple.  We don't have a fixed time limit to complete the workout, but it usually takes me 45-50 minutes to get through the warm-up lifts and the actual test lifts.  In a fixed time frame, the goal is to get a maximum weight back squat, a max weight strict (aka military) press, and max weight deadlift.

You are only allowed three attempts per lift, excluding your warm-up sets.  And, if you manage to fail on each of those 3 attempts, you can't count your warm-up weight.  You get a zero.  Your score is the sum of your three max lifts.

Given the limit of three lifts, there is definitely some strategy involved.  Essentially, I want the first attempt to be something relatively heavy, but something I know I can do.  The second lift should be a stretch, but with a decent probability that it will go.  If the second goes, the third is more of a stretch - something where I might fail.  If I fail on the second, I try to find something between the first and second that I think I can make.

I had three goals for the workout.  The first goal was basically something I was sure I could do.  The second was what I thought I could do, and the third was my "reach" goal - if everything went as well as possible.  Here are the three goals I'd established:

Goal 1: 345/125/385 = 855.
Goal 2: 350/130/395 = 875
Goal 3: 355/135/415 = 905

My score on 5/9/2011 was 315/125/365 = 805.

We have just complete a 12-week squat cycle, called a Hatch Cycle.  It was 2 squat workouts per week, doing back squats and front squats in each workout.  I started the program with a back squat best of 330 pounds.  During the program, I got to 340 pounds and that lift felt fairly solid; I knew I could do more.

During the workout last night, I spent way more time on my back squat warm-ups than the warm-ups for the other lifts.  Primarily, I used the first part of the warm-up not only to get ready for the heavy back squats, but also as an all body warm-up that had me primed to continue fairly quickly through the other lifts.

My squat warm-ups were as follows:


Because I was fairly confident from the work over the previous 12 weeks, my first attempt was at 345.  It went easily.  I felt confident after this lift and jumped straight to 355, not stopping at my intermediate goal.  I hit that easily.  I then wavered a bit, unsure if I should try 360 or 365.  I finally opted for 365, and although it wasn't easy, I got it.  All three of these lifts were PRs.

Already, I was above my best hopes for this lift and I immediately started thinking about the possibility of 900 pounds.

I warmed up for the strict press at 45, 75, 95 and 115.  My first test attempt was 125 and it went surprisingly easily.  This is a lift I've done very rarely in the past six months.  We did one workout of 5x5  seated presses recently, but I hadn't really tried any heavy singles in a long time.  I guess I really didn't know what to expect on this one.  I jumped to 135 (old PR of 130) and it also went easily.  I now had 500 pounds and I was thinking even more about 900.  I was positive I could deadlift 395, so rather than shooting for 145 on the next press, I went for 140.  It also went easily and I probably could have done 145.

Now, I was at 505 with just the deadlift remaining.  Of the three lifts in this workout, the deadlift is my best lift.  I warmed up at 135, 225, 275, and 315.  My first test attempt was at 375, a weight I knew I'd make and it went easily.  My plan for the next lift was 395, but I opted for 405 to tie my PR instead.  This seemed somewhat risky, because if I failed here, I might not make 395 for the 900 total on my third attempt.  I had only ever pulled 405 once before, on 2/29/2011, and it had been a huge struggle that day.  It seemed like that bar took forever to get to my waist that first time.

Yesterday, though, the 405 moved easily, and I was at 910 with one lift to go.  Here again, I was torn.  Should I go for 415 or 425 on my last lift?  The higher value seemed reasonable, but the lower value would give me a PR on all three lifts for the night, with less risk of failure.  So, I went for the 415 and while it was hard, I wasn't at my absolute limit.  I'm sure I could have done the 425, but there are other days to attempt that.

My final scores were 365/140/415 = 920, with all three lifts above my highest goal level.

My wife drove home from the gym, and I used that time to post my score on Facebook, so other CrossFit friends could see it.  The first comment I got was from a running friend in CA, and he asked if there were any steroids involved.  That brought me back to earth a bit because I cannot answer "no" to that question.

When I started taking testosterone at the beginning of June, my levels were clinically low and I was struggling in the gym quite a bit.  I haven't had another test to measure my testosterone levels since then.  Are the readings in the normal range now?  Or, are they in the high range?  Essentially, I am left wondering how much of this workout was me, and how much is due to the twice weekly injections of testosterone.

I did the work last night.  I did the training.  I work hard in the gym.  But, I am also fairly positive that I would not have lifted as much last night if I wasn't doing testosterone supplementation.

A tainted result?  Possibly?  Probably?  I'll probably have more of an opinion when I have my next set of lab tests done.  If my testosterone levels are above the normal range, the result will feel somewhat tainted.  At the same time, I certainly don't want to go back to how I was feeling six months ago.  It is certainly very encouraging to be making progress in the gym again.

Friday, October 12, 2012

CrossFit - Is It Good to be Sore and Tired Most of the Time?

I ran across an online discussion thread about CrossFit earlier this week.  Someone was discussing a four month experiment with CrossFit, and how he had finally decided that CrossFit wasn't for him.  He said that his fitness had improved.  His body composition had improved.  He liked most of the results from CrossFit.  Yet, there was one thing he didn't like and it led him to abandon CF.

What was the one thing he didn't like?  He was tired of being stiff and sore and tired.  As I read the post, I kept thinking about the length of time he had spent doing CF - only four months.  I found myself thinking he was still adapting to CF and simply needed to give it more time.

And then I thought about my own experiences.  I read this yesterday.  I also looked at my workout log for 2010, and saw that yesterday was the two-year anniversary of when I started CF.  My notes in my log for that workout are as follows:

"21-15-9 of power cleans and push-ups.  Pathetic - low weight, girly push-ups, almost puked, I loved it."

Two weeks later, I had to step outside in the middle of a workout named "Chief" and I did puke into the bushes that day.

I've learned a lot since then.  I've gotten a lot stronger.  My back squat PR has gone from 265 to 340, and I think I'll hit 350 this coming Monday.  My deadlift had stagnated at 365 before CrossFit, but I can lift 405 now.  My ability to pace myself through a high intensity workout is much better.

I wish I could claim that my body composition has improved tremendously.  In those two years, my weight has gone up by a net of 8 pounds.  I'm guessing that I've gained more than 8 pounds of muscle and I've lost some fat.  But, I still carry too much body fat and I weigh more than I'd like.

That all sounds pretty good.  Even the worst thing, my weight, is somewhat neutral.  But, the post that I read did hit on one thing that's true for me as well.  I am sore and stiff and tired a lot of the time.

Why do I spend so much time training, whether it's in the gym or the long, long distance running I've done in the past?  Part of it has been to compete.  Part has been so that I could perform well at other things I love, whether hiking or skiing or rock climbing or whatever else I wanted to play at.

I think that CrossFit helps me to do that.  So did running.

But, today, my knees are sore, my shoulders are sore, and my biceps are sore.  I know why these muscles are sore.  The workouts of the last two days hit some different muscle groups than I hit routinely, or hit them differently.  Last night I did 15 x 4 chin-ups, every minute, on the minute.  That explains the sore biceps.  Wednesday night, I did 7x3 of a lift called rack pulls (essentially, the upper half of a deadlift) at weights from 365 to 405 pounds.  That explains the shoulders.  Box jumps and burpees and squats are probably responsible for achy knees.

One of the funny things about CrossFit is the nearly infinite number of ways you can scale a workout.  When I first started, I did the workouts at a very low level compared to the "prescribed" weight and rep schemes.  As I've gotten more "CrossFit fit", I simply add more pounds or more reps or do a more complex movement.  I still scale things down as well, but I do a lot more than I did two years ago.  Every workout can be made to be incredibly difficult.

Two years later, I still do box jumps on a shorter box than most people.  I use resistance bands for pull-ups, especially when we have lots of reps. I find alternate exercises when the workout calls for muscle-ups or handstand push-ups or double unders.  But, I still push myself hard almost every workout.  And, as I constantly remind myself, I'm not getting any younger.  And I'm not a skinny guy.

When I took a week of vacation to go fly fishing last month, I worked out on my own for most of the week and only made it to CF once that week.  Some of the aches and pains disappeared for a few days.  One day that week, while wading upstream in some fast-moving water, I remember thinking that I felt strong and steady in some water that could be intimidating for wading.

When I put my air conditioners away for the season, I find that they feel light and I can easily move them myself.  Last weekend, I helped my in-laws getting their summer camp ready for the summer.  The "heavy" things they needed help with didn't feel heavy at all to me.  An afternoon spent stacking firewood doesn't leave me sore for days.  A day spent skiing steep bumps on the mountain doesn't tire me out the way it did a few years ago.

So, yeah, I'm stiff and sore and tired at times.  But, at age 50, my body is still functioning pretty well.  I guess I'm finding that the good still outweighs any bad.

And in an hour, I'll be in the gym to do some front squats, back squats and some ab work.  Tomorrow, I'll take it easy and do some fly fishing.  Sunday, I'll probably go for an easy run.  And Monday, I'll be right back at CF, going as hard as I can.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The Penn State pedophile, whose name I won't even mention here, spent a lot of time yesterday and today decrying his innocence and claiming that he would never have done any of those "disgusting acts."

He was sentenced to a jail term of 30-60 years, with no chance of serving fewer than 30 years.  Because he is 68 years old, he could theoretically survive long enough to be paroled 30 years from now.

His insistence of innocence disgusts me.  If he honestly believes he is innocent, he needs a lot of professional mental help.  If he is lying, simply to protect himself, he is just a disgusting scumbag.  I'd say he's more of a scumbag than we were led to believe earlier, but lying pales in comparison to his other crimes.

Is there legitimately any chance that all of these witnesses, including adults, and not just the young victims, conspired against him?

I remain adamantly opposed to the death penalty and I have not yet seen a criminal case that will change my mind.  But, there are times when I think that criminals should have sentences that guarantee they will never step outside a prison again.  This pedophile deserved that.

And, claiming innocence in front of his victims in a court of law is disgusting.  I am a person who believes that redemption and forgiveness are never impossible.  But, failing to own up to your own actions is not something that falls on the path to redemption or forgiveness.

May the world never see his face again!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Finally Catching Up

It seems really unfair that the way the business world works these days, this is how a vacation tends to go:

Week before vacation - Work huge number of hours so feel like things are settled enough that you can leave for a while.

During vacation - check in daily, hope nothing terribly wrong happens, end up un-surprised when you get three phone calls in a single morning while fly fishing.

Week after vacation - Work huge number of hours to try to catch up on what you didn't do last week.

The net result is that I worked as many hours in the three weeks that included my vacation as I would have worked in those three weeks if I hadn't taken vacation.  Something seems really, really wrong there, to be honest.

Overall, my vacation was fairly relaxing.  Due to the weather, I got out fishing only three days, and I only caught fish on two of those days.  The fish in my last post was the biggest fish I caught all week.  My son fished with me for a couple days and had about the same results that I had.

I went to a concert.  Worked out a lot.  Slept a lot.  Finished season 4 of Breaking Bad.  And now I'm back at work; today starts my second week back.

My wife is also back at work today, which is certainly a relief for her.  Being out of work was certainly costly.  We paid two months of COBRA coverage for health care - a big chunk of change.  And, my wife is not eligible for health care insurance at her new job until December.  So, until then, I am using my company's insurance, which is very expensive, has a very high deductible, and requires me to put a significant amount of money into a health savings account.  Neither this policy or the COBRA policy is remotely affordable, and on top of losing 9 weeks of pay, the health care costs have been a big hit.  Regretfully, none of the people running for President is willing to deal with people caught in a situation like we are going through.  I'm not saying that it's the government's job to help me out right now.  I do think that our health care system should be different so that no one has to endure what we've just dealt with.

We are lucky, in that we have been able to scrape by without the second income and still pay the health care premiums.  But, many people would not be able to do so.  Having no health insurance exactly when you need the insurance the most - when your income is reduced or gone - seems absurd to me.

My wife and I have never collected unemployment, never used food stamps, never used welfare, always paid our bills, and played by the rules.  And, with college degrees and years of job experience, we are doing OK.  I certainly have a new understanding of the hardships people endure when unemployed or underemployed and uninsured or under-insured at the same time.  And more than ever, the idea of a single payer health care system seems imperative to me.

Yet, the people who want to be president have shown no interest in something like that.  Congress has shown no interest.  About half of the electorate, if not many more, many of whom may get government-provided health care, see no reason to support coverage for others who don't have it.  The people who have insurance seem to believe "I got mine; you're on your own."  Those who don't have insurance are still using the health care system, but probably at a much higher cost per incident, due to use of emergency departments.

To me, it all comes down to greed, purely and simply.  Vermont is ahead of the nation on the way to a single payer healthcare system.  I hope it does get implemented.  And based on my income, I expect to pay more in taxes for that system that I currently pay for insurance.  I'm glad to do that, if I know there will be a safety net there for insurance if and when my job situation isn't what it is today.  And yes, I trust the government to implement that system.  Medicare and the VA are two of the most efficient health care systems in the US, if not the two most efficient.

Maybe I'm a socialist.  So be it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

One quick photo

I've just spent the first four hours of my official vacation time doing some work.  But, I'm done now.  I'm waiting for a car repair to be completed.  Then, I'm going to the gym and then going fishing with my son.  My son had to work yesterday, but I fished Otter Creek and the New Haven River with a guide yesterday.  The fishing was a bit slow, but I caught a few fish.  The brown below was the highlight of the day.  He (or she) took a bead head Prince Nymph dragged behind a floating grasshopper imitation.

One more on baseball

The 2012 Baltimore Orioles have now won 16 consecutive extra inning games.  I assumed that this had to be the all time longest extra innings streak, but it isn't.  The 1949 Cleveland Indians won 17 straight in extra innings and went 18-1 overall in extra innings.  They had a 71-64 record in games that did not go to extra innings and finished 24 games over .500 at 89-65.  This was good enough for third place in the AL.

This was the first year of the Yankees tremendous 1949-1953 streak of winning five consecutive World Series.  This was a talented team too, with Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn at the top of their rotation.  Satchel Paige started 5 games and had a 4-7 record. He turned 43 in July of that season.

Offensively, they were a solid team, with Larry Doby leading a strong hitting OF, Mickey Vernon at first, and manager Lou Boudreau playing 134 solid games at shortstop.

But, if they went 18-1 in extra inning games, something I'd consider very lucky, they managed to offset it the rest of the year.  When I saw that 17 game extra inning winning streak, I was shocked that they weren't in the top 20 all time.  But, when I looked at things in more detail, I saw that they'd only won a single game more than the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball projected.  Overall, they outscored their opponents by 101 runs over 154 games, indicating that they should have won 88 games, and they won 89.  They outscored their opponents by 26 net runs (86-60) runs in the extra inning games, meaning they outscored their opponents by 75 runs otherwise - 589 to 514.

Because they didn't win all of their extra inning games by a single run, based solely on runs scored, they won an 5.5 more extra inning games than projected.  In other words, their extra inning record projects to 12.5-6.5, and yes I know that half wins (ties) are very rare in baseball, unless you have a stupid commissioner make a stupid decision to mess with the All Star game, but that's another issue.

However, in the other 135 games, the Indians were projected to win almost 76 games, but instead, they won only 71.  So, their extreme luck in extra inning games was offset by poorer than expected winning percentage in their games that went 9 or fewer innings (they had four sub-9 inning games that year).

So in this case, their one aspect of luck and another aspect of unluckiness essentially cancelled each other.

And, if they'd simply played as expected in the games that didn't go to extra innings, they would have still finished a handful of games behind the Red Sox and the Yankees.

However at the top of the division, the Yankees had finished behind the Red Sox both in offense and pitching.  However, the Yankees won 2 more games than might have been projected, Boston won one less, and the Yanks won by a game.  This began the greatest string of World Series wins in history, and an era of horrible frustration for Ted Williams and the Red Sox.

Given the lack of comments recently, it's clear that none of my three or four readers is a big baseball fan.  So, I'll move on from this subject now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Luckiest and Unluckiest Baseball Teams - All Time

Being the geek that I claim to be, my analysis of the Orioles 2012 season yesterday seemed incomplete.  I said I couldn't find the all time statistics to know if the O's really are one of the 20 luckiest teams in history.

So, I searched the web until I found the statistics I needed to do the calculations myself.  I also calculated the expected number of wins using two different exponents in the formula.  The original formula uses 2 as the exponent, while a revised version uses an exponent of 1.83, which is what I used here.

For more on the formula, go here.

As I expected, this year's Orioles team is one of the 20 luckiest teams of all time.  I was surprised to see them 5th overall though.  The first place entry is kind of amazing - a team outscored by almost 100 runs in a season, and they still finished above .500.  When I looked at that season in a bit more detail, I saw a team that lost by a lot quite often, but managed to win the closer games.  Sort of like this year's Orioles.

It is interesting to note that 6 of the top 20 lucky seasons have occurred in the 21st century.

Year Team Games Wins Losses Scored Allowed ExpPct ExpWins Diff
1905 Detroit Tigers 154 79 74 512 604 0.425 65.4 13.6
2004 New York Yankees 162 101 61 897 808 0.548 88.7 12.3
2008 Los Angeles Angels 162 100 62 765 697 0.542 87.9 12.1
1984 New York Mets 162 90 72 652 676 0.483 78.3 11.7
2012 Baltimore Orioles 149 85 64 653 663 0.493 73.5 11.5
1954 Brooklyn Dodgers 154 92 62 778 740 0.523 80.5 11.5
1970 Cincinnati Reds 162 102 60 775 681 0.559 90.5 11.5
1972 New York Mets 156 83 73 528 578 0.459 71.6 11.4
1924 Brooklyn Robins 154 92 62 717 679 0.525 80.8 11.2
2005 Arizona Diamondbacks 162 77 85 696 856 0.406 65.8 11.2
2007 Arizona Diamondbacks 162 90 72 712 732 0.487 78.9 11.1
1943 Boston Braves 153 68 85 465 612 0.377 57.7 10.3
1961 Cincinnati Reds 154 93 61 710 653 0.538 82.9 10.1
1932 Pittsburgh Pirates 154 86 68 701 711 0.494 76.0 10.0
1955 Kansas City Athletics 155 63 91 638 911 0.343 53.1 9.9
1997 San Francisco Giants 162 90 72 784 793 0.495 80.2 9.8
2009 Seattle Mariners 162 85 77 640 692 0.464 75.2 9.8
1917 St. Louis Cardinals 154 82 70 531 567 0.470 72.4 9.6
1977 Baltimore Orioles 161 97 64 719 653 0.544 87.6 9.4
1936 St. Louis Cardinals 155 87 67 795 794 0.501 77.6 9.4

A few things stand out in this list.  The 2004 Yankees are the only team in baseball history to lose a playoff series after leading 3 games to none.  But, if they had won the 89 games they were expected to win, the Red Sox would have won the division, and perhaps the Red Sox would not have won their first title since 1918.

The 1970 Reds team went to the World Series, where they lost 4-1 to a 108 win Orioles team.  The 1972 Mets didn't go to the World Series, which saw the A's beat the Reds, but in 1973, the Mets did go to the series, where they also lost to the A's.

It's amazing to think how bad the 1943 Braves should have been.  And the 1955 Athletics should have lost 100 games.

The 1961 Reds did go to the World Series, but they were beaten easily by the Yankees, who were led by Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who combined for 115 home runs that season.

The 1936 Cardinals were two years removed from their 1934 Gashouse Gang championship, but in 1936, they finished 5 games behind the Giants.

Not one team in this list won a World Series.  The Reds, twice, are the only team in this list to have even gone to the world series.

And, given their overall statistics, I do not expect this year's Orioles to make it to the world series.  But, in short series, anything can happen.  The 1988 Dodgers were clearly the worst team in the playoffs, yet they beat a much better Mets team in the NLCS and came within a Mark McGwire home run of sweeping the A's in the series.  The great thing about baseball is that anything can happen.

For the sake of completeness, here are the unluckiest teams of all time according to the same formula:

Year Team Games Wins Losses Scored Allowed ExpPct ExpWins Diff
1993 New York Mets 162 59 103 672 744 0.454 73.5 -14.5
1905 Chicago Cubs 155 92 61 667 442 0.680 105.4 -13.4
1986 Pittsburgh Pirates 162 64 98 663 700 0.475 77.0 -13.0
1907 Cincinnati Reds 156 66 87 526 519 0.506 79.0 -13.0
1911 Pittsburgh Pirates 155 85 69 744 557 0.629 97.6 -12.6
1935 Boston Braves 153 38 115 575 852 0.327 50.1 -12.1
1984 Pittsburgh Pirates 162 75 87 615 567 0.537 87.0 -12.0
1975 Houston Astros 162 64 97 664 711 0.469 75.9 -11.9
1906 Cleveland Naps 157 89 64 663 481 0.643 100.9 -11.9
1905 St. Louis Browns 156 54 99 512 608 0.422 65.8 -11.8
1967 Baltimore Orioles 161 76 85 654 592 0.545 87.8 -11.8
1937 Cincinnati Reds 155 56 98 612 706 0.435 67.4 -11.4
1904 Cleveland Naps 154 86 65 647 482 0.632 97.3 -11.3
1939 St. Louis Browns 156 43 111 733 1035 0.347 54.2 -11.2
1999 Kansas City Royals 161 64 97 856 921 0.467 75.1 -11.1
1924 St. Louis Cardinals 154 65 89 740 750 0.494 76.1 -11.1
1946 Philadelphia Athletics 155 49 105 529 680 0.387 60.0 -11.0
2006 Cleveland Indians 162 78 84 870 782 0.549 88.9 -10.9
1919 Washington Senators 142 56 84 533 570 0.469 66.6 -10.6
1993 San Diego Padres 162 61 101 679 772 0.442 71.5 -10.5

Not surprisingly, none of these teams won a world series, or even went to the series.  And, in 1904, there was no series, but Cleveland in 1904 finished only 1.5 games behind the Boston Americans (later the Red Sox), so they clearly should have been AL champions that year.