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.