Monday, April 29, 2013

Should I rename my blog again?

I'll get to the subject line in a minute.  But, first, a few workout notes from last week.

As of Friday, I'd been to CrossFit 9 out of 12 days.  I know this contradicts what I'd said a few weeks ago about doing less CrossFit and more aerobic work.  However, I've been seriously modifying the workouts to reduce issues with my shoulder and it seems to be working OK.

Last Monday, we started with 7x1 front squats, with a goal of a one-rep max PR.  When I first started CF, I couldn't do a single front squat rep holding the bar with the correct grip.  The correct grip has the hands on the bar at about the "clean" position, and the bar rolls back onto the front of the shoulders, supported more by the shoulders than the hands.  Due to a lack of flexibility, it's taken a while to improve on this lift.  For a long time, I used a "cross grip", basically forming an "x" with my arms and hands to hold the bar.  While this works, it's not the standard grip and I've been working on the correct grip.

For a long time, my front squat max was 225 pounds, done with a cross grip.  But, with lots of  proper grip front squatting, I knew I could improve upon that.  In March, I managed to do 225 and 245 with the proper grip.  However, my back squat best is 365# and it's fairly typical that your front squat max is about 85% of your back squat max.  That would put me at about 310 pounds - far from 245.

So, I was pretty sure I would be able to lift more than 245, but I wasn't sure how high I could make it.  I finished my warm-ups and did my first working rep at 225.  Then one at 245.  Then reps at 265, 275 and 280, and only the last one was really a struggle.  But, I did four lifts at or above my previous best.  I wrapped up with a 245 and a 225.

On Wednesday, the workout was distinctly not shoulder friendly.  Instead of doing some jerk complexes, I opted for 7x1 of deadlifts.  My best ever deadlift was done on 2/21 of this year - 420 pounds.  Since then, I've had one relatively heavy deadlift day, maxing out at 365.  I did my reps as follows:


The 405 went pretty easily, but the 425 was a lot tougher.  I stalled out with the bar just below the knees, but I stuck with it and the bar started moving again and I nailed the rep.  After this, I skipped the main workout too, and ran 5x400 meters instead, averaging a pathetic 1:50 or so per rep.

On Friday, we did 5 sets of 3 touch-and-go deadlifts for max weight.  My best weight on this workout in the past was 365, but after the deadlifts on Wednesday, I only got to 345.

For the week, I made it to CF four times, which left me feeling good about spending the weekend fishing.

And this is why I might need a new blog name.  A few have come to mind.  The Futile Fly Fisherman.  The Failing Fly Fisherman.  The Flailing Fly Fisherman.  The Retired Fly Fisherman?

My son and I started on Saturday in a small tributary of the Winooski River.  We knew there were some native brook trout in that stream, but after an hour, we gave up and headed to the big water of the Winooski.  There were a few bugs in the air - mostly Hendricksons (ephemerella subvaria) and a few Baetis (tricaudatus) and blue winged olives (a specific variation of Baetis - Attenella).

I tied on flies to match the nymphs of the Hendrickson and blue winged olive, but we had no luck at all.  My son saw one fish rise to take a Hendrickson, but the fish was well out of casting range.  Because of high early season water flows, wading towards that fish would have been very dangerous.

After a couple hours, we tried one more spot - the confluence of the Mad River and the Winooski River.  Here, we got shut out again.  This area was in the shade and there were no insects out at all.  I tried some streamers - fished deep and slow - but no luck.

For the day, my son thought he had one bite, but he missed it.  I had nothing.

On Sunday, my son had to work, but I fished the Dog River for a few hours.  I fished one new (to me) stretch of water that had some beautiful holes.  There were a few Baetis in the air, but not much else.  After two hours or so with no action whatsoever, I decided to check my phone to see how much daylight I had left.  I was thinking that I shouldn't do it, because this is the cast where I'll get a hit.  Sure enough, about the time that thought passed through my feeble brain, I got a hit and responded too quickly, snapping the line.  I have no idea how big the fish was, but if it had been tiny, I set the hook hard enough that it might have landed on top of me.  Even though this river has some big browns, the brief encounter didn't make me think I'd hooked into anything big.

A few minutes later, I returned to my car to fish one other stretch of this river.  Before Hurricane Irene, this had been my favorite stretch of the the Dog, but it's been changed so much.  My son and I caught some fish at this spot last summer, but I had no action at all this time around.

So, two days of fishing.  Total flies lost was probably four or five.  Total fish caught equals zero.  And my brand new expensive rod and reel have been shut out their first three times on the water.  Operator error, no doubt.

On Wednesday, my son and I are both taking vacation days from work to return to the Middlebury and New Haven rivers - the two rivers that shut us out on opening day.  Maybe my streak of futility will end that day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Shoulder Progress

For the first time in a while, it seems like I'm seeing some improvement with my injured left shoulder.

For a while now, I've been avoiding any overhead lifts.  I've also been avoiding some work that has me hanging from a bar, although I'm still doing band-assisted, wide-grip pull-ups and some chin-ups.

During the CrossFit Open, I did a few overhead reps, and that certainly didn't help things.  But, two weeks ago, on back to back days, both my chiropractor and a sports medicine orthopedist suggested a couple other lifts I should remove from my workouts.  Primarily, this meant cleans.  Even though cleans are not an overhead lift, they do result in me moving the bar from the ground to the racked position at my shoulder, and they were likely still causing some problems.

Both practitioners also suggested perhaps a bit more aerobic type of work and less CrossFit, at least until we can get the shoulder healthier.  I certainly complied last week, when I only worked out two total days.  I had some busy work days, some days dealing with stuff at home, and I spent the weekend fly fishing rather than exercising.  Given that I've done some sort of exercise approximately 5 days per week so far this year, a week with 5 rest days is certainly an easy week for me.

Monday night, I went to CrossFit.  The first part of the workout was heavy back squats and front squats.  Neither of them bother my shoulder and I did that part of the workout.  I haven't pushed hard on back squats through the winter, mostly because we usually do squats on Monday and I'm usually a bit tired from skiing.  This Monday, I got up to 325#, the heaviest I've gone since my 365# PR in October.  I could have lifted more, but I did enough hard reps that I didn't feel the need.  The second part of the workout involved rope jumping, ring dips and cleans.  I did push-ups rather than dips and deadlifts rather than cleans. This made the workout easier than planned, and I pushed hard to get maximum value out of it.

Last night, I changed some of my rehab exercises a bit during my warm-up.  For some of the rehab work I'm doing, I've been using resistance bands, especially when working on external rotation.  Last night, I switched to a light kettlebell for that work.  It was definitely harder, but didn't seem to bother the shoulder.

I completely skipped the planned warm-up at CF last night.  Even though it was done using light weights, there were lots of overhead movements.  Instead, I concentrated on shoulder rehab work.  The strength part of last night's workout was snatches and clean and jerks.  Those are both on my "no-go" list.  Instead, I did 5 rounds of 10- dumbbell bench presses paired with 20 sit-ups.  Then, I did 2x400m of running.  By then, everyone else was ready for the rest of the workout - 12 minutes of cleans and kettlebell swings, where the goal was to get as many KB swings per round as possible.  I opted to row 500m rather than doing 10 cleans.  In 12 minutes, I only managed to get through three rounds, and my KB swings per round were 20, 20 and 22, for a final score of 62.

And even after two nights in a row at CF for the first time in a month, my shoulder felt OK.  I was a little tired from the volume of work I did yesterday, especially the rehab work, but I was able to sleep with very little shoulder pain.  It has been close to six months since I've had a truly pain-free night of sleep, with the exception of two nights right after a cortisone injection.

So, working out less seems to help.  Doing some cardio/interval workouts rather than lifting seems to help.  Taking a "rest" weekend to go fishing seems to help.  Yet I'm in pretty good shape and I don't want to give up the fitness I currently have.  So, I'll continue to try to find that sweet spot that hopefully lets my shoulder heal while I do what I can to stay fit.  But, after months of very little progress, it's nice to see some changes over the past two weeks.

In another four weeks or so, I will have a decision to make.  I can decide to have a platelet rich plasma treatment on my shoulder.  That can be done in early June.  I could decided that I'm making progress and I want to defer the decision on the PRP treatment.  I could decide I'm not making progress but I don't want to spend almost $1,000 out of pocket for the treatment.  Or, maybe I'll be almost back to normal and decide I don't want the treatment at all.  That last option is, of course, the goal.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Otter Creek Classic

I had never tried any sort of fishing competition before this past Saturday.  Yeah, in high school, my friends and I would count how many trout we caught each season and how many bass we caught and who had the biggest fish, but it was just about bragging rights.

In the Otter Creek Classic, held on Vermont's opening day of trout season, you can win serious prizes.  There were two $800 fly rods given away - one each to the winners of the pro and amateur divisions.  There were about 85 participants and the organizer claimed they had $7500 in prizes for the top anglers plus raffle prizes.

I had talked my son into giving it a try and the event took up most of our weekend.  Regretfully, some bad timing and bad weather ended up potentially making a big difference in how our day went.

On Friday, I worked from a coffee shop close to home, and while I was working, I had my snow tires changed over to my summer tires.  It was snowing when I dropped the car off and the owner of the garage told me that two other people had cancelled due to the snow.  I told him where I had to drive later in the day and he told me that he could wait to change my tires if necessary.  But, it's nearly mid-April, so I had him change the tires as scheduled.  He's a small business owner and I didn't want to cut his revenue for the day any more.  This would turn out to be a factor in the fishing tournament.

At 2:30, I quit work for the day and picked my son up at his job.  We needed to be at a pre-tournament meeting in Middlebury at 5:00.  Middlebury is about 40 miles from where we live, but the shortest route goes over two mountain passes on roads that don't see a huge volume of traffic and don't get a lot of love from the snow plows and cinder trucks.  It snowed most of the way to Middlebury and the roads were slick.  I was kind of laughing to myself, thinking about the potential irony of sliding into a ditch with my snow tires in the back seat, rather than on my wheels.  But, we made it in plenty of time.  I bought a few last minute supplies (thanks to the Middlebury Mountaineer for sponsoring the event and providing a nice discount to participants who needed those last minute supplies) and we grabbed some dinner before the evening's main attraction: The Fly Fishing Movie.

Essentially, it was two hours of fishing porn, watching people catch all sorts of big fish in exotic and not-so-exotic locations.  The last segment of the film was shot on the Upper West Branch of the Delaware River, which is where my son and I were fishing when I caught this fish last year:

When the film ended, a quick look at the weather conditions on my phone concerned me quite a bit.  It was 31F and raining where I lived, and the two mountain passes were likely seeing snow.  It had been windy earlier in the day, and I was hoping the wind might have dried off the roads a bit.  We started home, but the road up the first pass wasn't dry.  And before we'd done even 1/3 of the climbing, the road was icy.  My son and I both agreed that continuing was not a good option.  I had been thinking for a while about alternate routes home.  There were none that were completely flat.  I could head south and go over a pass that was likely to be well maintained.  That route would be almost 75 miles rather than the 40 miles of the more direct route.  Or, we could go north and pick up the interstate for most of the way home.  That route was over 100 miles, but seemed like the safest option.  We chose safety over distance and opted for the 100 mile route. We did make it home, but not until after 1:00 a.m. and the last 20 miles had still been a bit hairy on the road.  At one point, a state trooper passed us and then suddenly stopped in the left lane with his lights on.  A pickup truck had slid off the road and was facing the direction of travel.

So, we got to sleep about 1:30 a.m.  The official start time for the fishing tournament was 5:00 a.m., but I had no plans to fish that early.  I had hoped to be on the water by 8:00, but I changed my mind and decided to get up at 8:00 instead.  We didn't get out of the house the next morning until almost 10:00 and we weren't fishing before 11:00.  We had the choice of fishing in five different rivers - Otter Creek, the Middlebury River, the New Haven River, the Neshobe River and Sucker Creek.  I had decided early on not to fish the Middlebury.  Despite having the best potential for a really big fish, the Otter "Creek" is a fairly big river, the water was high and off-color, and I was afraid that wading could be dangerous.  The Neshobe was somewhat out of the way, although one of the biggest fish of the day did come from that river.  I don't even know where Sucker Creek is.  That left the Middlebury, which I'd never fished, but was the easiest to get to, and the New Haven, which I've fished but don't know really well.

When we stepped into the Middlebury River at our first stop of the day, the water temperature was 35F.  We fished for a bit over an hour in some beautiful pocket water, but caught nothing.  At one point, I thought I had a bite and I may have even hooked a fish briefly, or it might have simply been a submerged stick.  Given the limited amount of insect activity at this time of year, I kept our fly selections simple all day.  I don't think that we had the wrong flies on, but the Middlebury yielded no fish.

Next we headed to the New Haven.  Most of our pre-planned locations already had one or more cars parked nearby.  We finally found a place on our list of locations that had only one other car and that fisherman was downstream and we wanted to go upstream.  This was another gorgeous stretch of pocket water.  Two hours of fishing every imaginable holding spot yielded nothing.  I know the fish were there, but I certainly couldn't get their attention.

We were running out of time (scorecards were due by 4:00 p.m.), so we tried one more spot quickly - some deep, slow moving water where we tried some streamers for a while.  Nothing.

When we got to the store to turn in our scorecards, we found that with zero fish, we still had a median score.  Well over half of the fishermen caught nothing at all.

In the amateur division, the winner caught two fish.  Only two amateurs caught more than one fish.  In the pro division, the winner caught six fish (all out of the Middlebury River and most of them while we were still sleeping), second place was four fish (a local guide who also runs the tournament), and a third fisherman had three fish.  A guide who I fished with last fall, and who fishes the Otter Creek all winter long, caught nothing.

We won some socks and hats and a fly box out of the raffle.  Next year, I either need to catch some fish to win a good prize, or just be luckier in the raffle.  It was a raffle where everyone got something, but I was picked almost last.

The fact that I just typed "next year" must mean I'm planning to do it again.  All in all, it was a fun day, even if the fish weren't cooperating.  And, the fishing season is just getting started.  It's supposed to be pretty warm this week and I'm already thinking about where to fish next weekend.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Not every day in life can be a great day.  I tend to think I have a lot of really fun days in my life.  I just spent a really fun weekend with some college friends.  The weekend before that, I skied with another college buddy.

I love going to the gym.  My job is very satisfying, knowing that my company provides a service that improves medical outcomes and saves healthcare dollars.

This coming Saturday, I will spend the entire day fly fishing with my son.

There are lots of really good days in my life.  But today, I'm disappointed.  Over a year ago, my daughter started talking about transferring to a private high school.  My wife and I warned her up front that we didn't know how we could pay for the high-end schools she was considering.  But, we also encouraged her to give it a shot.

She did a lot of research, a number of school visits, and she finally applied to a single high school - a school that cost $48K per year.

We had no idea if she would get accepted, but a month ago that happened.  Suddenly, the burden switched to my wife and me.  Could we find a way to pay for the school.  My daughter had been offered a little bit of financial aid.  We applied for a student loan and got accepted, but the interest and terms were just untenable.  We went back to the school.  They offered a little bit more financial aid, but not enough to tip things from one side to another.

We spent another week looking at ways we could pull this off.  What could we cut out of our household budget?  What savings of our or our daughter could we tap?  In the end, we realized that maybe we could afford one year of this school.  Maybe.  But, it seems cruel to my daughter to let her even start the school, knowing she'd likely be back in public school a year later.

Today, I had to let my daughter know that we'd run out of options.  I had to let the school know that my daughter would not be attending.

I feel sad for my daughter.  And, I honestly feel like a failure for not being able to make it happen.  But, borrowing $100K for high school, with college still in the future for both of my children, would be really irresponsible.

Sometimes, playing the role of the adult is no fun at all.  And, I'm left wondering about the decisions I've made the past 30 years that might have allowed this to work if I'd done things differently.

Clearly, this is a not a third world problem.  It's not about being able to feed my family.  It's a decision many, many people will never even have the chance to make.  But, it feels like the first really big crossroad in my daughter's young life, and I wasn't able to make it happen for her.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Shoulder Update

Yesterday, I had my weekly appointment with the chiropractor who has been helping with my injured rotator cuff.  I expressed some dismay that things appear to be static.  Nothing is getting better, but it's not getting worse either.  He did find a fair amount of inflammation at the lower attachment point of the infraspinatus tendon - the one that is injured.  He thinks that even power cleans, which I've continued to do because the bar doesn't move overhead, are probably causing problems.  He suggested that I think about reducing my CrossFit days for a while, and really back off on anything that uses the shoulders.

I was pretty sore yesterday (all over) from five tough days in a row, so I took a rest day.

Today, I saw the sports doc who I've also been seeing for the shoulder.  After using cortisone twice, he doesn't think there's any advantage to trying it again.  I told him what the chiropractor had said, and he agreed.  Do more running.  More cycling.  Some CrossFit.  But, back off on any shoulder work at all.  I can still do some stuff, such as push-ups or dumbbell bench presses.  But, keep the elbows in tight, reduce the load in the injured area, and diversify my training a bit.

I think I can take a hint, and with the arrival of spring, it's easy to modify things a bit.  I'm going to go out for a run in a little bit rather than lifting today.

Tomorrow is the last workout in the CrossFit Open.  It's an odd workout, where you start with only four minutes to get a maximum number of reps, but if you are fast enough, you can earn bonus time.  Sort of like a video game in an arcade.

But, I'm not fast enough to earn any extra time, so it will be over in four minutes.  The bad thing is that I'm supposed to do thrusters and chest-to-bar pull-ups for those four minutes - two movements that will not be kind to my shoulders.

I'll probably do this workout just so that I can complete the open.  And then, I will really focus on giving my shoulders a break over the following six weeks.

If the problem isn't significantly better in six weeks, the sports doc and I will probably schedule a Platelet Rich Plasma treatment.  I had this done in 2009 for a hamstring tendon injury with good results - by the same doc.  The doc thinks it will be very helpful for the shoulder.  But, before I spend almost a grand on that treatment (no insurance coverage), I will spend six weeks trying to let the shoulder heal on its own.

Monday, April 1, 2013

CrossFit Games, Skiing, and Easter Dinner

Friday night's CrossFit Open workout, designated 13.4 (fourth workout of 2013 - there are 5 workouts that make up the Open) was very humbling.  For someone my age (51), I am fairly strong.  But, I'm also not very agile or flexible or mobile.  My co-workers at Sugarbush would tell you that I'm a somewhat static skier - just not dynamic enough.  And, there are certainly CrossFit skills/movements that I simply cannot do, and some others that I avoid due to concerns about shoulder health.

Among the movements that I can't or don't do are handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, kipping pull-ups, overhead squats, candlesticks and toes to bar (TTB).  The TTB movement is basically done from a pull-up position.  You start by hanging on a pull-up bar in a dead hang.  You swing your feet behind you and then bring them forward and up forcefully, touching the bar with your toes at a position between your hands.  Some people who are very flexible can do this with straight legs.  Some people need to bend their knees to perform this movement.  And I simply can't do it.  I get my toes to about chest height and that's it.  Typically, when I see TTBs in a workout, I do an easier variation called a knee-up, simply pulling my legs up towards my chest until my femur is above parallel to floor.  Even with knee-ups, my wife has commented on how static and un-athletic I seem to be.

Workout 13.4 was as follows:

In seven minutes, do as many reps as possible of the following:

3 x 135# clean and jerk
6 x 135# C&J
9 C&J

Then 12 of each, 15, etc. until time runs out.  I did my first three clean and jerks in about 30 seconds.  And, then failed to complete a single TTB.  I tried briefly and I had tried extensively while warming up, but I couldn't do one.  So, I got three reps for the entire workout.  I finished tied for last in my age group in the north east region, although I am sure some people scored 0 due to lack of strength for the C&J.  The games scoreboard does not differentiate between a person who didn't do the workout and someone who tried but got no reps..  I dropped from 108th place overall after three weeks to 121st place overall after four weeks.

Part of my troubles with some of these movements is weighing too much.  It doesn't hurt me that much when I'm doing a pure strength movement, but when I'm doing an arm dominant movement, my weight is a hindrance.  Flexibility is an issue and a friend at the gym suggested yoga.  She happens to be a yoga instructor, but despite some bias on her part, she might be correct.  How I could possibly squeeze yoga into my week is beyond me.

But, I need to become more flexible.  More agile.  Improve my balance.  My dynamic movements.  CrossFit is not just about being strong.  It's about something called General Physical Preparedness, and there are many facets to GPP - not just strength.  In some ways, I've created this situation myself.  Spending 25 years doing primarily long distance running didn't do much for my flexibility.  My ankle dorsiflexion - key in skiing - has improved tremendously since I stopped running long distances.  But, even that could still improve.  I need to make it a goal to focus more on things that I can't do well, rather than spending so much time improving what I already do reasonably well.  We have a frequent workout segment called Work Your Weakness, where we pick something we aren't good at and practice it for 15-20 minutes.  Our coach frequently wants us to do a barbell movement, but I think I need to ask for permission to work on other more significant weaknesses in my overall fitness.

The good thing about the Friday workout is that it wasn't too taxing.  This was good because I had a full weekend of skiing planned.

On Saturday morning, my wife and I headed to Jay Peak Resort.  I had not skied there since late winter in 2002.  That day ended early and somewhat disastrously, when a freak accident left me with a torn ACL.  My wife and I were going to meet a college friend and his family for a day of skiing.  I hadn't skied at any mountain other than Sugarbush for a couple years, and it was nice to ski somewhere else.

My friend and his wife have two children ages 9 and 5.  The 9 year old buy can ski anywhere and was usually the first person down each run.  His little sister can survive just about any terrain, although she was unhappy with a couple of our tougher runs.  Due to a thaw/freeze on Friday/Saturday night, we didn't spend much time in the glades at Jay, because the snow was fairly firm there.  But we still had a fun day with our friends.  My only complaint was that the day wasn't long enough, given how infrequently we get to see our friends.  We did get to ski a couple steep runs and some nice bump lines - enough to tire us out by the time our last run ended about 4:30.

On Sunday, my wife and I felt a bit tired when we woke up and we took our time getting out the door to Sugarbush.  When we got there, we skied together for a while, and then met some friends at lunchtime.  The conditions were really nice - soft spring snow, filtered sunshine and temperatures near 50F.  By 2:00, we were somewhat tired, and by 2:30, we'd called it a day.  We had spent most of the day on a double black diamond run called Ripcord.  It had been groomed recently and the turns on this steep run were soft and sweet.  Sometimes, I feel like my job as an instructor creates a lot of pressure for me to ski the hardest terrain possible every single day.  When I had a weekend to ski for fun, I didn't shy away from tough terrain, but I also didn't seek out the hardest possible skiing.  This led to a fun weekend of spring skiing.

We got home from the mountain at a reasonable time, and it was time to cook Easter dinner.  My wife and I love eating rabbit (Tangletown Farm in Vermont is a great source of meat, especially pork, duck, chicken, lamb, and rabbit) and for years, we've joked about making rabbit for Easter dinner.  When our kids were younger, this was not an acceptable thing to do, but this year, I finally did it.

I roasted a rabbit and then made a classic Italian dish called Risotto Milanese.  I then chopped the roasted rabbit meat and folded it into the risotto.  Everyone agreed that it came out really well.  My daughter - not a huge fan of rabbit - simply pretended she was eating chicken, and even she enjoyed it.

So, despite being humbled in the gym on Friday, it turned out to be a great weekend.

This coming week, I need to get in some good workouts early in the week.  Next weekend, we are visiting some other college friends, and I don't think there will be any skiing or any other exercise at all going on.  I'm sure we will eat well and drink well, but I need to get my gym work done early this week.