Wednesday, March 28, 2012

End of my teaching season

Saturday, I taught skiing for the day. The skiing was essentially limited to two routes down the mountain and neither was very exciting. We spent 90 minutes watching people try to ski across an ice-cold pond. We quit a bit early and had a nice end-of-season party.

On Sunday morning, it was raining and windy. None of my students showed up. Hardly anyone showed up at all. We had a couple hours of meetings to discuss ways to improve our program. We had a nice little end of season party.

And then, it was over. Yes, Sugarbush is still open, with essentially one trail. I might ski on Saturday. I might not. I might not even have the option, but it's starting to look like the mountain will make it through the coming weekend.

This is a busy week at work. For the past four months, my life has been a whirlwind of working on software during the week and teaching skiing on the weekends, plus trying to work out as much as I could handle mid-week.

This week is a rest week. No CrossFit. No skiing planned. No running. Sleep. Sleep some more. My body needs an easy week (maybe an easy month) to recover from the past four months. I'm even using the commuter bus to get to work, to reduce my driving. Did I mention sleep?

Next week, I'll get back to the gym. Next week, I'll eat better. Next week, I may get out on my road bike or do some running. This week, I'm relaxing.

I'm even spending some of the downtime pseudo-planning a fly-fishing trip to PA in mid-May with my son. I grew up in PA and spent a lot of time fishing for trout. These days, I mostly fly fish rather than fishing with bait or lures. My son and I are going to take a 9-day trip in May and fish 6 or 7 of the best trout streams in PA. We have no reservations, no agenda, no timetable. Just sleep, eat, and fish.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Please don't let it be over already!

First things first, CrossFit. With the final qualifying workout for the CrossFit games tonight, last night wasn't too bad. It was a workout analogous to Chief, but with different movements:

5 rounds, as many reps as possible, working for 3 minutes and then resting for one minute:
3 deadlifts 225# prescribed, I did 185#
6 push-ups (I did sit-ups to protect my shoulder)
9 box jumps.

In the first three minutes, I did 3 rounds plus one deadlift. In the second work interval, I did three rounds plus two deadlifts. In the third interval, I did three rounds minus three deadlifts, putting me at 9 rounds through three work intervals. In the fourth, I struggled, and did two rounds, plus the deadlifts, sit-ups and only two box jumps. In the final round, I struggled again and didn't get to three rounds. Reps per work interval:


This was a good and tough workout on a warm day, one that won't tax me too much for skiing this weekend.

And, speaking of skiing, please, as stated above, don't let it end so soon. I typically ski about 50 days per year. This year, I'm at 36 and it looks like Sunday will be the end of the season. Every day I've skied this year, I've either been working or doing an educational clinic. I have not had a single day to simply ski on my own or with friends this year. I typically look forward to April, when I get to ski with friends in spring snow conditions and spring weather. But, with the early spring this year, it appears that most resorts in the northeast will be done by Sunday, including Sugarbush. For today, there are only 9 trails open. There is some hope for 4 more trails tomorrow, but I doubt that this will happen. We have some fun events this weekend - dummy big air (people put decorated dummies on skis and launch them off a ramp), pond skimming (put on a costume, go down a steep ramp and try to skim across a pond without submerging) and an end-of-season party. Tonight, I have to fill out "report cards" for my nine students this year. And by Sunday, it appears it will all be over.

This will be the earliest end to a ski season since I've moved to VT. (Insert obligatory sad emoticon here)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Deceiving workout

Sometimes, I get to CrossFit and look at the workout on the board, and think "This is going to be pretty easy." I should know by now that every time I think that, it's going to be really, really hard.

After our warm-up, we were supposed to do 5x5 of barbell push presses. I did 5x5 of hang power cleans instead to protect my shoulder. It's about the same distance that the bar moves, and hip extension is key to the movement, so it seemed like a reasonable substitute. I did my working sets between 95# and 125#.

Next was the part that looked easy:

400 meters of slam ball squat clean throws(*)
400 meter sled drag
400 meter run

(*) Slam balls are smaller versions of medicine balls, filled with sand, which stops them from rolling very far. Essentially, you squat in front of the ball, start to pick it up with two hands while moving upward, and then you drop under the ball. At this point, you are in a squat and holding the ball above your sternum. From there, you move up explosively, and essentially "shot put" the ball as far as you can. Then, you run or walk to the bar and repeat, until you've gone 400 meters. The prescribed weight for the slam ball was 40#. I tried 20# and it hurt my shoulder, so I decided to use the 10# version - a major step down from the prescribed weight.

I got through this portion of the workout at the front of my heat, but I was cheating by lifting such a small amount. And, it was still non-trivial. Then, I grabbed a sled. I've done short sled dragging intervals before with a couple hundred pounds on the sled. This was only 95#, but the distance was much longer. I "ran" for a little bit before deciding that was going to kill me. Eventually, I figured out that keep the sled in constant contact with the ground made for the most steady movements. So, I essentially dropped my center of mass a bit to make this easier.

When I finally finished the sled drag, the running felt almost easy in comparison, except for the fact that I was supposed to be going fast. My total time was 13:38. Most people who used the prescribed weight for the slam ball were over 16 minutes.

As I watched the rest of the people in my heat finish, both of my quads started to cramp up a bit. Clearly, it had been a tough workout.

Tomorrow is the last workout in the qualifying rounds for the CrossFit games. That workout includes thrusters and chest to bar pull-ups. So, I'm guessing those movements will not be in tonight's workout. But, otherwise, it's hard to tell what torture the coach will have for us tonight.

This coming weekend is the end of my ski teaching for the season. Sugarbush has now gone from 111 trails to 26 trails in 9 days. I'm just hoping we have enough snow for at least 3 more days.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CrossFit and Heat

The heat right now is just depressing. Yes, it's nice to have warm, sunny days, but ski season is running out fast. The mountain where I teach had 111 trails open last Tuesday, but it's been decreasing rapidly since then, and today and tomorrow are supposed to be the warmest days of this heat wave. As of this morning, we were down to 37 trails, and we'd even lost some upper elevations trails with man-made snow. Hopefully, we'll at least get through the weekend, but my typical April skiing (when I get to ski on my own) may never happen this year.

The gym last night was oppressively warm as well. I've heard that today's workout is outside, which should be better. I'm still modifying my workouts to prevent further injury to my shoulder, but recent rehab work I've done on my own has improved my range of motion, even though I'm not back to strength movements involving the shoulder.

We started last night with 5x5 of back squats, at 75%, 80%, 85%, 75% and 65% of our one-rep max. For me, this turned out to be 245, 265, 280, 245 and 215. Well, that's what I did and it's close enough to the prescribed percentages. Then, the main workout was as follows:

8 minutes, as many reps as possible:
5 overhead squats
10 burpees

I knew I couldn't do OH squats, so I did front squats instead. In the first round, I tried burpees, but the landing wasn't comfortable for my shoulder, so I switched to sit-ups, doing 15 instead of 10. I did 6 full rounds plus 5 reps of my modified workout and I was soaked with sweat afterward. I did pace the workout well and I was happy with how strong I felt through the 8 minutes.

Tonight, it's back to CrossFit, and I'm hoping it will be under 80F when I get there. The current temperature in the town where I live is 86F.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lots of Skiing

Last week, I took two days off work to attend a ski clinic/exam. The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) control the certification process for ski instructors. There are certification levels for Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, and Adaptive skiing. There are three basic certification levels for each discipline, and my discipline is Alpine (downhill) skiing. I've been teaching for 11 years, and I'm at level 2 certification. I hope to get to level 3 in the next few years, but I still need to improve my skiing somewhat to get there.

In addition to the core certification levels, there are other certifications available. This year, PSIA added two new certifications - a level 1 and level 2 children's specialist. Close to 70% of all ski lessons in North America are taught to children and these certs were created to emphasize the need for the special skills used in teaching children. To be honest, I haven't taught a lesson to an adult in 7 or 8 years right now. I felt it was important to get this new certification.

For a few weeks, a few of us from Sugarbush and Mad River Glen had been doing study sessions, getting ready for this clinic. The exam portion of the clinic wasn't too difficult. On the first day, we had to teach a short lesson based on one of our favorite lessons. Later in the day, we were quizzed on our understanding of some concepts specific to children and age groups. Our final exam piece was the most challenging. We were presented with a scenario and asked to teach a condensed lesson to achieve a specific objective. Here was my scenario:

"A group of 7-10 year old children. Two boys, four girls. The boys play hockey. Two of the girls ride horses. Two of the girls are sisters. One of the boys has ADHD. They can all turn one direction but not the other. Create a lesson to get them to linked turns in both directions."

When I first looked at the card, all I could think was "You have to be kidding me". We did have the option of returning a card and drawing another. But, as I thought about it, while it seemed somewhat contrived, I could get this lesson someday. And, I should be able to handle it. I got the card at the end of the first day and got to think about it overnight. I presented in the morning of the second day, and I think I did a really good job. I certainly did well enough, because I passed the exam.

I'll probably take the level 2 exam next year in this series.

On Friday, I returned to my office for a busy day and decided to not work out with more skiing on the weekend. We ended up having a beautiful sunny weekend with amazing spring skiing conditions. The only bad thing is that the conditions, snow depth and weather were all more appropriate for mid to late April rather than March. In the past 6 days, Sugarbush has gone from 111 open trails to 64 open trails. Mad River Glen, Sugarbush's neighbor to the north, closed for the season after yesterday. Sugarbush announced that the ski school will be closing after next weekend, and it's possible the mountain will close as well.

But, this past weekend was just awesome. On Saturday, my group of girls wanted to ski with another coach's group and we did that. We spent most of our time on steep bump lines and had a lot of fun. We took a mid-afternoon break to sit on a wooden deck at the summit of Lincoln Peak and just enjoy the weather and the views. It was a great, great day. On Sunday, we did a couple early ski runs and then switched to snowboards for the rest of the day. I do this once a year with my group, exposing all of them to another way to have fun in the snow. It's challenging to go from being an expert to being a beginner, but everyone has fun and we all laugh at each other falling down a lot.

Today it's back to work. And, I'll probably go for a run after work.

Tomorrow, it's back to CrossFit.

It's going to be warm all week, so more ski trails will be closing. But, we should have enough snow for one more weekend skiing with my students. After that, who knows?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Great Weekend

Friday night, I did a slightly modified CrossFit workout, with the goal of not hurting my shoulder at all, and not leaving me too tired for skiing over the weekend. The workout, as scheduled, was one of five workouts being used by the serious CrossFitters to qualify for the CrossFit games, which will take place in July. In reality, these workouts qualify people for regional championships and those regionals pick the people who go to the Games. But, my goals are much different, so I scaled the workout:


18 minutes, as many reps as possible
15 Box Jumps, 24" box
12 barbell push presses, 115 pounds
9 toes-to-bar

I did the following:

15 box jumps, 15" (I normally do 18", but with over 100 reps, a lower height made more sense)
12 hang cleans, 65# (to protect my shoulder)
9 Abmat sit-ups (again, to protect the shoulder)

I did 8 rounds and 20 reps with a nice steady pace. I was pretty happy with the result, and I was pretty sure I'd be fine for skiing over the weekend. For once, this was the case.

On Saturday, I arrived at the mountain a few minutes later than I would have liked. At home, we'd had 3" of snow overnight, but the mountain had almost a foot of fluffy snow at higher elevations. I led a 45 minute training clinic before work, focusing on tactics for the snow that had arrived overnight.

And then, I went to pick up my group, and only two students showed up. I had a problem with an iPhone upgrade on Thursday evening, and my phone was dead on Saturday. I was sure I had all kinds of messages from kids and parents, but I couldn't get to them. So, I went out with the two students, and figured I'd meet others at lunch, which is our default for late students. While skiing, I found two of my students skiing with a friend who was visiting for the weekend. That left three students in an unknown status. And, at 11:30, when we went in for lunch, I found all three of them. By lunchtime, a lot of the powder was chopped up, but we spent the afternoon in the trees, looking for untracked lines. I was very impressed with my daughter, who seemed to find and cruise the untracked snow almost effortlessly.

As a really fun day ended, we knew that Sunday would be a lot different. Overnight, it got cold, but the high temperature for Sunday was supposed to be near 50F, with bright sunshine. Because the long range forecast is for very warm temperatures, we assumed that some parts of the mountain would be closed by next weekend. This includes a section called Castlerock that is all natural snow and rarely groomed. So, we spent most of Sunday on the steep, somewhat wild terrain of Castlerock. We skied steep trails (two of the toughest at the mountain), easier trails, tree lines, and finally, we were beat. After a couple easier runs on a different lift, we were done for the day. It had been a great day of spring skiing on soft snow.

Today is a long work day for me and a rest day. Tomorrow, I'll go to CrossFit, but not push too hard. On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, I'm taking a two day skiing clinic, with the goal of earning a certification called "Children's Specialist 1". Approximately 70% of all ski lessons in the U.S. are taught to children, and the governing body for ski instructors in the US has added two levels of child-specific certification. Because I teach children almost exclusively, it makes sense for me to attain these two certifications. So, I'll try to get the first level this week, and then hopefully get the second next season.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Easy Run

It was warm and sunny yesterday, I was working from home, which is far from the CrossFit box, and my shoulder was sore. It seemed pretty obvious that I needed to get out for a run yesterday.

According to my workout logs, the last time I ran for my workout, rather than some running as part of a CF workout, was 10/24/2011. The last time I ran more than 3 miles in a day was an 11 mile trail run last August. So, not being very smart, I headed out for a four miler to see how it would feel. And, it went OK.

I wasn't happy when my Garmin Forerunner simply shut down after a little more than a mile. Perhaps it was telling me that it hasn't appreciated being neglected so much. Or, maybe it needs a new battery, but it's less than a year old. I updated the firmware today and re-charged it, so I'll see how it works later today.

I could feel that my stride was a bit off. This has been an ongoing problem for me over the years and I've seen a chiropractor regularly to deal with a functional leg length discrepancy. I've had no need to see him recently, but perhaps it's time.

My best guess for the run was 4 miles in 45 minutes or so. Most of the time, I ran at about a 10mpm pace, but I did walk a few uphills.

I'll probably do the same course again this afternoon.

My shoulder continues to bother me, but I was able to sleep without taking any Alleve last night, an improvement over the night before.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Working around an injury - kind of ridiculous

It's been 11 days since I re-injured my shoulder. I am sure that the injury this time is more severe than a year ago, and I made an appointment to see a sports orthopedist yesterday. Regretfully, I can't see him for a month.

Last night at CrossFit, it seemed that every movement required your arms to be over your head, or doing something else that my shoulder doesn't want to do right now. I had to be inventive to get in a good workout. But, I managed to work hard, even though I'm sure it was not as hard as the prescribed workout.

For strength, we were supposed to start with 5x5 of overhead squats. I did back squats instead - each set at 225.

Then, the main workout was as follows:

30 pull-ups
30 ring dips
100 push presses
row 1000m

Of those four activities, the only one that doesn't hurt is rowing. So, I did the following instead:

30 air squats
30 sit-ups
100 deadlifts
row 1000m

I was the first one done, so I know I made it too easy. But, I managed to get in a good workout. Regretfully, even this workout aggravated the shoulder a bit. I took some Alleve when I got home, and I still woke up around 2:00 a.m. with my shoulder throbbing in pain. It took a while for me to find a comfortable position and fall asleep again.

Right now, it's almost 60F outside and I'm working from home today. My workout for today will be an outdoor run as soon as I'm done with work. It's been quite a while since I've done a run of more than a mile or so, and I plan to go 3-4 miles today.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sometimes, I feel like I'm too old to play this hard

Squat PR on Tuesday plus the rest of the CF workout

Deadlift PR on Wednesday plus the rest of the Cf workout

Rest on Thursday (swamped at work)

Rest on Friday (need to be ready for the weekend)

Saturday - skied in steep trees all morning. Then, as the temperature rose and some of the snow started to get dense, we moved to trails for safety reasons. But, we moved to steep, double-black diamond trails. By 2:30, the girls in my group were exhausted. I could see it everywhere - some people drop their hands, some drop their butts, skiing in the "back seat", and my best skier simply stopped moving below the waist, trying to just glide down hill while exerting as little effort as possible. We dialed it back to end the day. My left knee (ACL replacement a decade ago and some meniscus damage) was barking a bit by the end of the day. My right shoulder is still sore.

I had a class after skiing on Saturday and got home later than usual. I cooked dinner, watched some TV and went to bed early. I knew Sunday would be a challenging day.

Overnight, the temperatures dropped and what was fun on Saturday was ice on Sunday. We tried one very moderate tree run - a mountain biking path. Speed control was nearly impossible. My buddy Jay, a level 3 certified instructor told me later that he'd tried the same run and had to use a wedge to control his speed. So, we mostly stuck to steep groomers, including Ripcord, a double-black that had been groomed. Twice, we ventured onto non-groomed mogul runs and nearly had our teeth shaken out of our heads. Actually, one of the un-groomed runs wasn't too bad on the upper half of the run, but the bottom was a challenge.

Due to the challenging conditions, a lot of people left the mountain early. On Saturday, I'd skied most of the day with all nine of my students. By the end of the day on Sunday, only two remained, and one of them was my daughter, who didn't really have much of a choice.

All in all, it was a fun but tough and challenging weekend. As soon as we were done skiing, I changed clothes and headed home. I got home, showered, changed into PJs, and just laid on the couch watching TV for a couple hours. I managed to rally a bit to cook dinner and that was about it before bed.

Today, my right shoulder still hurts. My left knee aches a bit. I'm tired. It's definitely a rest day and I hope to be back at CF tomorrow. But, the last two weeks, I've only done two CrossFit workouts during the work week rather than three, and I've still found myself tired after the weekend.

I have three weekends of ski instruction left, and I'm thinking of modifying my mid-week training for the next three weeks. I am thinking of doing CrossFit only on Tuesday and Thursday, and maybe doing some easier aerobic work on Wednesdays.

It's OK to have a bad day in the gym where you are a student in the class. But, when you are the instructor, as I am on the weekends, you really need to be at the top of your game.

This winter, I've had my most advanced and aggressive ski group ever. And I've tried to train hard during the week while skiing hard during the weekends. Perhaps it's catching up to me. Or, I might just have to acknowledge that age 50 is a lot different than 30, from a physical perspective.

All of what I do remains fun. But, my body is simply asking me to do less sometimes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A couple powerlift PRs

My shoulder has been sore all week from a fall I took while skiing last weekend. Last night, I woke up due to the pain and I had to take some Alleve to fall asleep again.

Needless to say, this has affected my workouts in the gym this week. I took Monday as a rest day, and went to CF at our new gym location on Tuesday. The strength portion of the workout was back squats, and I took a shot at 325# - 5 pounds more than my PR. I got a little bit forward as I came up from the squat position, but I held it together and completed the lift. After that, I did a modified WOD that didn't require me to use the sore shoulder for strength.

On Wednesday, I was feeling a bit tired from the squats on Tuesday, but I went to CF again. That night, we were doing a 553311 rep scheme for deadlifts. I've been shooting for 405# for quite a while. I've lifted 395# recently, but I'd failed on my only attempt at 405. The number is somewhat significant for lifters because of the way the plates work for barbells. The bar weighs 45 pounds and the "big" wheels also weight that amount. Well, there are 100 pound plates, but we don't have any at our CF gym. So, 135 is the bar plus two big plates, 225 is the bar plus 4, and then 405 is the bar plus 8. So, the numbers 135, 225, 315 and 405 are significant goals as you progress. I've cleared 315 for my squat, but really wanted the 405 for my deadlift.

I modified the rep scheme a bit to put me in position to try the 405 while warmed up but not too tired. I did 5 reps at 135, 5 at 225, 3 at 315, and one at 365. I then took a break of about 10 minutes before trying the 405. I made sure I got into a good position and started to pull. Everybody in the gym was watching my attempt. Partway up, someone yelled at me to "Breathe!", which I apparently wasn't doing. Inch by inch, the bar kept moving and I finally got myself fully erect. I held onto the bar for a few seconds, so there'd be no doubt that I'd finished the lift. And then, I dropped it to applause from the others in the gym. I really love the camaraderie of CF - how we all want everyone else to do well.

After that lift, I did the main WOD, but my mind was elsewhere. I was pleased with the lift, and found myself wondering how long, if ever, it will take me to get to 495#.