Monday, December 29, 2014

Sugarbush Report - 12/27 and 12/28

To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting to have a lot of fun at the mountain this weekend.  We had rain mid-week and no new snow of any significance.  I was expecting the natural snow trails to be thin and very firm.  I expected everything to be frozen fairly solid.  And being a holiday week, I expected huge crowds.  In reality, the snow was fun, the weather was comfortable (a bit of rain, but not a big deal), and crowds were moderate.  It was a really fun weekend.

While training Saturday morning, we did discover a few "seams" left behind by the groomers the night before, so we all noted them as obstacles for guests later in the day.  Patrol was working with shovels to smooth out the worst of these seams.

We also heard that Ripcord, a double black diamond run, had been groomed.  I had a small group on Saturday, and after a warm-up and a few teaching drills, we headed to Ripcord.  The Heaven's Gate chair rides over Ripcord, so we had a chance to watch others skiing the trail.  I thought it seemed fairly soft and with edge-able snow, but the boys in my group really didn't want to ski it.  After teaching students aged 12-14 the past few years, I've been working hard to re-orient myself to teaching 7 year old children this year.  The truth is that a ski run that scares a child that age can have a negative impact that can take weeks or months to overcome.  One of my students is also still working on some stance issues, and I simply decided that it might not be ideal to ski the steep run.

So, we skied Jester, and one of my students had an epic crash there, with his equipment spread all over the place.  He was fine and we got him up and moving again.  The cause of his fall was groomed snow that had a texture similar to sand.  Technically, it's called "granular", but the grains were fairly fine and dense, and it required us to really pay attention while turning, so we could slice through the "sand" rather than get tossed around by it.

Gradually, the temperature started to warm up and we had some spring conditions for the afternoon.  We took advantage of that to ski the soft bumps on the open natural snow trails, mostly focusing on intermediate terrain like Moonshine, Sleeper and Birch Run.

Sunday morning, I felt a bit tired from working hard in the dense snow the day before.  We started the day with mostly groomed trails, while dealing with above-freezing temperatures, and some mixed rain and sleet.  Ripcord had been groomed again, and this time I took all 4 boys there, after a lesson that was specific to making turns on that steep terrain.  On the way up the chair, 3 of the 4 decided they would prefer an easier way down, but I held firm this time.  By the time each boy had made 6 or so turns, each had realized the snow was soft and forgiving and they turned on the rockets.  I had to fight to keep up with them on the descent.

Most of the natural snow trails were closed on Sunday, to help protect the snow that remains on those trails.  Today, even though I'm not at the mountain, I noticed that the lower temps allowed them to re-open most of those trails.

Snow got progressively softer as the yesterday moved along, and we enjoyed some nice spring conditions bumps all afternoon.  I did a brief lesson in the morning to prep us for Ripcord, and then a second in the afternoon to try to get the boys to turn on easy terrain with minimal rotary movements.  Next week, I will put a strong emphasis into rotary movements, and I hope they will remember this past weekend and feel the difference between the two

It's supposed to be cold this week and the snow guns are going again.  Regretfully, there aren't any major snow storms in the forecast right now.

We did get some light snow this morning that caused the interstate to ice up fairly severely at commute time.  My wife and I were late getting to work, but we did much better than the drivers whose cars were off the road after sliding on ice.

If I'm lucky, I'll get out to ski on Thursday, but it will depend a bit on the weather and how my wife is feeling.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you

I got to CrossFit last night, knowing we had a really tough workout.  The previous time we'd done the 22 minute main workout that we were going to do, we'd done no strength training beforehand.

Last night, we had a group warm-up, to be followed by clean and jerks, clean pulls, and clean deadlifts.  That was to be followed by 22 minutes of snatches, back squats, and pull-ups.

I was feeling really beat as I started my 7th straight day doing either CrossFit or skiing.  I'm also on the back end of a head cold, I'm out of cough medicine and I was coughing during the warm-up.  It's obvious where this is going, isn't it?

I did the main group warm-up.  From there, we were about to do some warm-ups specific to the strength part of the workout.  Instead, I took my barbell and put it back in the rack.  I walked off the floor, took off my lifting shoes, and told my wife I was done.

I napped as she drove home.  As soon as we got home, I changed into pajamas and I just fell onto the couch and covered up with a big blanket.  A while later, I had some dinner.  And then, I went to bed early.

Today, even without a workout yesterday, I'm amazingly sore, mostly from heavy front squats on Monday.

So, maybe I'll still do better this year than last year, in terms of training days or CrossFit sessions.  Maybe I'll tie last year's numbers.  Maybe I'll do worse.  But, I'm not going to injure myself for a number in a logbook.

One thing I've learned as I've gotten older is that I need to just listen to my body at times.  Twenty years ago, I would have been able to just force my way through last night's workout, with minimal risk.  These days, discretion wins when I'm tired.

I am planning to go to the gym for the workout at noon today.  It looks like another hard one, but I'll give it a shot.  Unless I decide I'm still too tired.  I guess the one good thing about getting old is that I've developed the patience over the years to just roll with it when things aren't going perfectly.  I have no real need to prove that I'm tough (aka stupid) by pushing through a workout when I should be resting instead.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Training numbers

I first started running "for real" on Apil 1 in 1985.  For that year, I kept track of my running mileage on a calendar, which I still have in a box at home somewhere. The next year, I switched to using paper logbooks to track my training, and I still have a lot of those at home.  Eventually, I switched to using Excel to track my training.

I've got way too many numbers stored on paper and in Excel files.  To the best of my knowledge, I've run 42,206 miles since April 1, 1985.  I spent a few years focusing on triathlons and I then returned to that sport intermittently in the early 2000s.  Somewhere, I have totals for bicycling miles and swimming meters as well.  But mostly, I ran.  I have race results for over 600 races, although it's been quite a while since my last race right now.

I guess it's just how I'm wired.  I have a math degree and was interested in studying areas of mathematics where the only career path is research and teaching this same math to other aspiring mathematicians.

For the past 30 years, if you gave me a date, I could find out what I weighed on that date (within a pound or 2), what training I did that day, what race I was training for, and how I felt about my workout on that day.  I'm sure there are many others who do the same, but people at my CrossFit box make fun of me for being so obsessive.

Earlier this year, I noticed that I was coming up on my 500th lifetime CrossFit work.  I mentioned it to someone at the gym, who mentioned it to the coach, who then announced this before our workout.  I was embarrassed to be exposed as such a geek, and I've gotten a lot of comments about being obsessive since that day.

I've been doing CrossFit for about 4 years now, and after a slow start, I now average just over 150 CF workouts per year.  My typical goal for a year these days, is to get 150-160 CrossFit workouts, 50 days of skiing, another 30 or so summertime days of hiking or running or cycling, and I try to fly fish another 50 days each season, although that is certainly not a workout, at least most of the time.

Last year (2013) was a tough year in some ways.  The second half of the year was particularly tough, as my mom died about the same time that I found out I might have prostate cancer.  That latter concern then turned into a cancer diagnosis, followed by lots and lots of doctor visits to determine how to treat the cancer.  When the year was done, I'd done 154 CrossFit workouts, and 206 total training days.  I think I got about 40 skiing days, rather than 50.  I ran less than normal, hiked less than normal, cycled less than normal, and I got out rock climbing exactly once.  And that day, I didn't even climb; I just belayed.

This year started out pretty slowly.  I had surgery for the cancer in early January.  I missed a month of skiing.  I couldn't do CrossFit at all for a while, and when I did return, I was very limited for a while.  It took about 10-11 weeks after the surgery until I felt fairly normal and I could again push hard in a workout.

A month ago, I was looking to see how this year would compare to last year.  Given how my year started, if I could be even with last year, I think I'd be pretty happy.  I have done some traveling and I've had two head colds late this year, so that cost me some training days.  But, my final numbers are actually starting to look pretty good.  If I can make it to CrossFit Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and next, I'll end up with 155 CrossFit days for the year - one more than last year and my best ever.  If I make those 6 CF workouts and teach skiing next weekend (which I will do),  will end up with 207 total training/skiing days this year - one more than last year.

I'll write an end of year post with some other numbers.  But, despite a rough start to the year, I am pretty pleased with how things have gone.  I can always wish things were a bit different.  I wish I weighed a bit less, I wish I had better mobility/flexibility, I wish I was stronger, I wish I was younger, etc.  But, I think I'm doing reasonably well for a guy who turns 53 in a couple weeks.  I set a number of new PRs in the gym this year, my skiing continues to improve year after year, and I'm having fun with what I do.  It's really hard to complain about a "wish list", when so many other things have gone so well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Another gym PR

I had a decent night at CrossFit last night.  I have been quite literally stalled on the clean and jerk at CrossFit for years.  I had gotten my clean to 190 pounds in October of 2012.  My clean and jerk was stuck at 180 or 185 for years.

Recently, I got a few new PRs.  I got a new squat clean PR with 195 pounds last week.  I got to 188 pounds on the clean and jerk, using a push jerk rather than split jerk.  Last night, our goal was to get as heavy as possible for the split jerk, which in theory, should be a stronger lift than the push jerk.  My existing PR for this lift is (was) 185 pounds, and it was set about 2 years ago, I think.

I warmed up at 95 and 115 and 135, doing multiple reps at each weight.  At that point, I switched to singles and gradually worked my way up.  Things were easy at 145, 155 and 165.  My lift at 175 went reasonably well, but I struggled, as I always do, with trying to drop quickly under a heavy bar.  But, I made it.

From there, I skipped over my existing PR of 185 and went for the PR at 190.  Just like at 175, I felt like I got under the bar poorly.  However, my push was fairly strong and I managed to get under the bar and catch it.  I was able to stand it up easily.

So, I've not got a squat clean of 195, a power clean of 188, a push jerk of 188 and a split jerk of 190.  Somehow, I need to take this recent progress and keep working, and get myself over 200 pounds for the clean and jerk.  That's not a lofty number by any means.  The world record for my age and weight group is about 330 pounds.  I'm pretty sure that record is safe.

I had stalled at these lifts in a big part due to a shoulder injury that dogged me for most of last year.  Now that my shoulder has been relatively healthy for more than a year, I'm seeing decent progress.

Goal number 1, of course, is to keep the shoulder healthy.  But, I would really like to see my Olympic lifts and my bench press continue to get better.

After the split jerks last night, I did some push presses, followed by some rowing, dumbbell snatches and push-ups.  Tonight will be burpees, pull-up negatives (start at the top and hold on as long as possible), box jumps and deadlifts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Playing catch-up again

It's once again been a long time since my last update, it seems.  As I look at the past 2 weeks, I have been crazily busy.  Last time, I wrote about getting a new PR in the bench press.  And, I whined about illnesses - cancer, in particular.

Despite my whining about the cancer stuff, I have also seen a silver lining in some of this adversity.  My wife and I have been married for 28 years.  That's a long time for anyone to "put up" with anyone else.  Yet, through all of this, I think it's been clear that our marriage is doing really well.  We are always there for each other, always worried first about our partners.  It's a great feeling to know that after all of these years together, when life gets challenging, our commitment to each other never wavers.

That bond was put to a test again this past weekend, when my wife spent an entire day in the local emergency room with unexplained bleeding that just wouldn't stop.  I think her medical care has been mostly incompetent for the past few days.  I'm not going to go into details, but there has been a terrible lack of communication, poor decision-making, very little empathy, and doctors trying to rush her into major surgery, without giving her any other options.  She is going to see a different provider at a local teaching hospital this Friday, and hopefully, we will get better answers than we've gotten so far.  I just wish that many doctors would be more honest and up front about side effects from treatments and treatment options, even if they don't offer those options.

In  my wife's case, there is a clear advantage to treating her in a more modern and better equipped facility.  But, the doctor didn't bother to tell her that there were better options.  She wanted to do a procedure immediately yesterday.  When my wife refused, she tried to schedule surgery for today, telling my wife that she'd try a simple procedure, but if it didn't go well, she would proceed to a very significant surgery.  Again, my wife declined.  She then suggested Thursday and my wife temporarily agreed.  She has since cancelled that appointment, and will get a second opinion before anyone touches a scalpel.

Around all of this, I've had a crazy couple of weeks.  I trained other ski instructors all weekend two weekends ago.  Then, I had a quick trip out of town.  At CrossFit Shadyside, in Pittsburgh, I had a great workout and got a new squat clean PR of 195 pounds.  This is a lift where just being strong is not enough.  It requires good technique, and that's been limiting my progress.  My new PR was simply a matter of getting better at this particular lift, rather than being stronger.

The evening after this PR, I started to feel sick.  That took me out of action for a few days.  Last Saturday, I was supposed to start teaching my ski students for the season, but I was with my wife at the hospital instead.  The next day, my wife insisted I follow through on some existing plans, telling me that she would simply rest at home for a few days.

So, I taught skiing on Sunday, meeting my students for this season for the first time.  They are amazing.  Only 7 years old, decent skiers (but there's a lot I can teach them) and they like to go, go, go.  But, being only 7, a full day of going non-stop becomes too much.  Late Sunday afternoon, I watched them simply fall apart.  The entire group seemed to run out of energy all at once, and we slowed things down for the rest of the day.  This is going to be a great season.  It will probably be just a month or two before I'm struggling to keep up with them.

Right after skiing, I headed to the airport for a brief trip out west.  I had a great time visiting some friends and I had a great workout at CrossFit Potrero Hill.  By Tuesday night, I was home again and I'm back in my office today.

And now it's almost Christmas.  I haven't done any Christmas shopping yet.  I don't know if my wife has.  We had agreed to keep things simple between the two of us, but we still need to take care of the rest of the family.  Maybe we'll have time to shop for Christmas presents the day after Christmas.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just after my "coming up short" post

I recently lamented that I had recently been missing some of my lifting PRs in the gyms by small margins.  Most people my age, especially lifelong lifters, are not setting new PRs in the gym at the age of 52 (53 is getting really close).  Most people aren't setting PRs within a year of being treated for cancer either, although I'm sure some do.  And, many people don't work the hours I do, put in the long commute, and still find themselves with the time to even train hard.

At my last doctor's appointment, my doctor was pushing me to see a therapist.  He had some good points.  I've had a lot of stress at my job, I've gone through diagnosis, treatment and recovery for prostate cancer in the past year, I've had some other major stressors that I don't even want to talk about here, and most recently, my wife has been diagnosed with and treated for an advanced and aggressive melanoma.  Earlier this year, her dad was also treated for melanoma.

(For the record, my wife is doing great right now after two surgeries, and with a month of radiation, she should be completely over this bout of melanoma, although she will need to be careful for the rest of her life.)

At this point in time, I am really f*cking sick of cancer.  It's everywhere in one form or another, it seems.

I pushed back with my doctor.  I don't have enough time in my life to talk to a therapist.  While these stresses have been just that - stresses - I think I'm doing reasonably well.  I also think I have a place that helps me in a lot of the ways that a therapist would.  Actually, I have a few of those places.  The ski mountain.  The gym.  The streams during trout season.  Those are the places where I can just relax and enjoy life.  Yeah, sometimes I'm working hard in those environments.  Sometimes, I'm perplexed at why I can't fool a feeble-brained fish with fur and feathers.  But, those places are my therapy.  They are things I look forward to, things I need in my life.

Yesterday, my wife sent me an e-mail at 4:45.  She said it must have been a busy day (and she was right).  We normally mail stuff to each other through the day, but apparently, I didn't send her a single e-mail yesterday.  She noted that I always send her something at work.  Every single day.

Yesterday, I was buried deep in code and a fairly simple technology called XML.  We need to really perfect some XML work we've been doing for a mobile app we are prototyping at the moment.  All of the display information on the phone will be delivered through XML to a business partner and our business partner will then render that information to the users.  So, I was buried deep in that code all day.  It has to be 100% error-free.

When I left here and picked up my wife, I started to think about the gym.  After a warm-up, our first part of the workout was to establish a 1 rep max on the bench press.  After a stressful day, going heavy (relatively) is the perfect way to really let out any frustrations.

Before my intro to CrossFit, I was stuck at 185 on the bench press.  My background is more distance running and skiing and hiking and backpacking - leg dominant sports.  It has taken a long time to build the muscle to get better on the bench press. Plus, our gym really seems to prefer overhead pressing rather than bench pressing, so I don't get to do it very often.

Two years or so ago, I got to 195 pounds.  Then, I hurt my shoulder doing some Olympic lifting and that had a lengthy recovery.  I got to 195 pounds twice more, but I couldn't get past that number.  Over this past summer, we did a lot more bench press work, using a Wendler style program, and I gradually got 200 and then 205.  I failed at 210.  Since then (those lifts were  in August), I've done very little bench press work.

Last night, I paired up with a young, strong lifter in our gym for the lifts.  His plan was to get to 250 or so.  I simply wanted 210.  We alternated through the warm-up and working sets.  I did multiple reps at 95, 135 and 155, and then went to singles.  I got the reps fairly easily at 175, 185 and 195.  From there, I decided to jump 15 pounds to 210.  I felt pretty good about the attempt after how 195 had felt.  I pulled the bar down confidently and started to drive up.  And I stalled.  Almost.  The bar was still moving, ever so slightly.  My right hamstring cramped up.  I ignored it.  I kept driving.  After what seemed forever, I got the bar locked out.  A new PR at 210.

Then, 3x5 at 155, followed by 3 rounds of 20 each of push presses, kettlebell swings and box step-ups.

I'm tired today, but not stressed out.  The gym is the best I can do as a therapist right now and it's probably going to have to be good enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Coming up just short in the gym

Last night, the strength part of CrossFit was to work to a 1 rep max front squat, with only 3 "working attempts" allowed.  I warmed up, starting at 95 pounds and working up to 205.  My first working rep was 225, and that went pretty easily.  Next, I did 255, and it was work, but not too bad.  The coach said it looked like I had a lot left in my legs.  Next, I jumped to 285, thinking that my PR was 280.

Regretfully, my weight got a bit forward on the descent, and I bailed before I'd even bottomed out.  When I checked my log later, I realized that I'd done 285 and failed at 295 on 8/25 of this year.  So, even if I'd stuck the lift, it wouldn't have been a PR.

The week before, we had half an hour to work to 1 rep maxes on the snatch (I use the power snatch due to mobility reasons) and the clean and jerk.  In mid-August, I'd gotten past a long-term sticking point of 125 on the snatch, and I lifted 128 and 133 in the same workout.  In late October, I'd gotten to 135.5 on the snatch but failed at 138.  On that same day in October, I'd gotten to 185.5 and 188 for 2 new PRs in the clean and jerk.  My PR for just the clean remains at 190, but I rarely test that lift.

On the snatches last week, I worked by 10 pound increments from 63 through 123.  Then, suddenly at 133, I failed twice.  Finally, I got a clean lift at 133. After the 133 went, I tried 138 three times, but I failed on all 3.  So, I've now lifted 133 twice, 135.5 once, and I'm 0-4 at 138.  I think the way to fix this is to do some workouts of high weight singles.  Maybe do something like 10 x 1 at 125# for a few weeks and try again.

On the cleans.  I may have made a tactical mistake here.  I started at 133 and added ten pounds at a time until 173.  At that point, I was feeling a bit tired and I wasn't sure how many more good attempts I had in me.  So, I jumped to 193.  I failed 3x, and only the second was close.  I wonder if I might have had better luck trying 183 and then 193.

In the end, it doesn't really matter.  I am close to my PRs in all of these lifts, but not quite there.  Sometimes it's mental.  Sometimes, it's simply not your day - not enough sleep (definitely a problem lately), poor diet in the previous 24-48 hours, or you are stressed or distracted by other things in your life.

Given the stresses I've had recently, I was pretty happy with my weights in these three lifts.

I've been skiing on the weekends, which is something that no amount of training really gets you ready for.  No matter how fit you are when the ski season starts, you still have to ski yourself the rest of the way into ski shape.  With lots of early snow, I hope to keep working on that every weekend.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

First skiing day in the books

I have to admit up front that Killington is not my favorite ski resort.  If I could ski the mountain on a daily basis without its typical crowds, I would be just fine skiing there; there really is great terrain to be found.  But, the mountain has a reputation for large crowds.  The stereotype says that many of the people that make up those crowds are young snowboarders, who ride at out-of-control speeds, putting themselves and others in danger.

If you factor in limited early season terrain, and lots of discounted lift tickets, the risks seem even higher.  But, my wife and I had some of those discount tickets, the mountain had gone from 5 open trails to 16 trails in the previous 2 days, and it was a chance to ski with some friends before the lifts are spinning at Sugarbush.  By this coming Sunday, I'll be doing some "work" at Sugarbush.  I don't get to ski on my own just for fun very often, and I don't get to ski with my wife very much either.  So, this was a perfect opportunity for that.

We were at the mountain by 8:30 or so on Sunday morning and we got a decent parking space.  We were on the gondola a little after 9:00, heading for the summit.  It was cold at the summit and a number of trails were slick already, but not too bad.  We did a number of laps off a triple chair just below the summit, making sure we hit all the open terrain except for the terrain park.

The trip down to the base area was a little bit hairy, with tight trails and ubiquitous snowboarders moving at high speeds.  There were also a number of racers from other mountains at Killington, so there were some skiers moving very fast as well.

From there, we headed down to meet a friend who was arriving later than the rest of us.  We skied off the Snowdon Triple for about 90 minutes, and then headed back to the summit.  Someone suggested a bathroom break and that led us to the new summit lodge at Killington.  The inside of the lodge is very nice and the views in every direction were stunning.  The only things more stunning than the views were the prices for food.  But, the lodge wasn't very crowded and we were hungry, so we decided to eat.  I had some sort of artisan free range limited edition burger, topped with bacon made from pigs that were hand fed grapes by Italian virgins, or something like that.  The burger needed salt.  After all the flowery prose defining what I was going to eat, would it have been too much to put a little salt on the ground beef?  My wife and I each had a burger and a soda.  My wife had $47 cash in her pocket, but that wasn't quite enough to pay for lunch.  Ouch!

After lunch, we did a few more runs off the higher triple chair, but conditions were now very slick.  We headed back down to the Snowdon Triple area.  On the way down, I was thinking about the fast moving snowboarders and how you never know when one is going to hit you.  Within seconds, it happened to me.  Luckily, she was small and I stayed on my feet during and after the collision.  Without so much as an apology or even an acknowledgement, she simply sped away down the hill.  I may have yelled something not-very-polite in her direction as she continued down the hill.

Down low, we found that a number of guns were blowing very sticky snow.  One of our group went down hard when the sticky man-made snow simply stopped his skis, but he kept moving forward.  After that fall, I think we did one more run, and decided it was time for a post-skiing beverage.

We quit relatively early - about 2:30 or so.  But, it was the first day of many to come.  It was nice to ski with my wife, and nice to free ski with some of my friends/co-workers from Sugarbush.  We get to ski together during the season, but frequently, we are in training sessions, rather than simply skiing for fun.  And, fun is why all of us do it.  We enjoy the teaching aspect as well, but sometimes, it's nice to just be out there doing your own thing, with no responsibilities for students.  That part of the season will come soon enough.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Almost time to ski!

Killington has been open for more than a week.  As of today, they have 5 open trails.

My new ski helmet and gloves arrived in the mail in the past week or so.  I ordered some new ski socks today.  My skis and boots are in the shop at Sugarbush for a safety check.

This Saturday, I will have 6 pairs of old skis and 1 pair of boots for sale in a local ski swap.  The goal is to get enough money to buy my wife a new pair of skis for this season.

And then, on Sunday, we are heading to Killington to ski for the day.

The following weekend, if the weather cooperates, I will ski at Sugarbush.  My first day on snow at Sugarbush will be a working day, something we call "train the trainers".  Basically, we do our training of other instructors a bit differently every year, so we try to get all of the staff trainers on snow early, so we can start to get comfortable on snow again, and so we can talk about the training plans for the season.

After that, I'll be training other instructors starting on Thanksgiving weekend.  I will start skiing with paying customers on the 13th of December.

My fly rods are still not put away for the winter.  I'm still hoping to get out fishing this coming weekend.  But, winter is just about here.

Other than that, it's all about CrossFit, I suppose.  Tonight involves a lot of overhead barbell work.  My shoulders are going to be tired tomorrow.

Friday, October 31, 2014

It was 33 years ago today...

It all started with a copy of the Village Voice.

I was 19 years old.  A sophomore at Bucknell University.  A brother at Theta Chi.  My fellow brothers had re-shaped my musical world my freshman year.  After years of AC/DC, Judas Priest, and the Scorpions, plus a little bit of Pink Floyd and Zeppelin, I had been turned on to David Bowie and then Elvis Costello and Talking Heads, plus some new bands like U2 and the Psychedelic Furs.

In high school, I'd seen Devo do Whip It! on SNL.  Didn't we all watch SNL then?

But, until college, they were nothing more than weird guys with flowerpots on their heads.  But, listening to entire albums at school, I became a huge fan.  When they released New Tradionalists, it was on the turntable pretty much non-stop.

So, in September or maybe early October of 1981, through the Village Voice, we heard that Devo was going to play Radio City Music Hall on Halloween.  I forget how we got tickets, but it certainly didn't involve the internet.  Somehow, we got tickets to the second of 2 shows that night, and we were in very last row of Radio City Music Hall.

We had a party at the fraternity on a Saturday night, right after we'd scored the tickets.  Three of us were so excited about the show that we spent the entire night at the party bothering people.  We would walk up to a group of people, with our backs facing them.  Then, we'd spin in tandem and say the words "October 31st.  Radio City Music Hall.  Devo.  Be There!".  And we'd walk away.  I'm sure we were really annoying, but we were so excited about the show.

The Friday before the show, I headed to NJ with my buddy Jeff.  We went to his house and then headed across the NY state line, where the drinking age was 18.  Of course, we went to a bar.  I have to assume we were drinking Schaefer beer.  I do remember that it cost us 35 cents per glass.  I'm sure I had too many.

On Saturday, we headed to NYC.  Four of us met at a bar called The Blarney Stone.  There were a few places in NYC by that name, and I assume they were connected.  I think we were in the Hell's Kitchen area, on West 47th, which would have put us close to RCMH.

I was then (and still am today) a big college football fan.  My team, Penn State, was ranked number 1 that day and playing at Miami, who was not yet a national power.  Penn State's Curt Warner, who was averaging 168 yards per game, had been injured and missed the previous week's win against West Virginia.  He started against Miami, but re-injured his hamstring, and Miami went on to upset Penn State 17-14.  I remember so vividly watching the game at the Blarney Stone, and seeing Warner carrying the ball, and then, mid-play, he reached back and grabbed his hamstring.  That win for Miami propelled them to a new level and they've been a national power ever since.

After the game, we wandered around town for a while.  I remember we stopped at one bar that charged us $8 for a pitcher of nasty beer.  Their tap lines were filthy, the beer was expensive and undrinkable, and they refused to give us a refund.  One of our group, a guy named Eric, was still yelling at them as we left the place.

At some point, we were in Times Square, which was a much different place in those days.  And about 11:00 or so, we headed to Radio City Music Hall for Devo's second show of the night.  It was a fantastic show, a mix of their older songs and the new material from New Traditionalists, plus their cover of Working in a Coal Mine, which was part of the soundtrack to the movie Heavy Metal.  Here is the set list:

To be honest, there is only one set list online, and there were 2 shows.  I don't know if they played identical sets or not, so this might not be exactly what we saw.  At the very least, it is close.

That was my first visit ever to NYC, and despite our college-age appetites for beer, it's a day I still remember very well.

I haven't seen Devo since that night.

My next trip to NYC was on another holiday - St. Patrick's day in 1982.  That night, we went to the Ritz, which is now long gone (the original venue has returned to its old name of Webster Hall), with pretty much the same group of guys, and we saw a young band from Ireland who had just released their second album, October.  Even though October remains perhaps U2's least known and least successful album, I've always been a fan of that release.  Years later, when I saw U2 in a stadium with over 50,000 people, I remembered fondly seeing them in a venue that held only 1400 or so.

October 31st.  Radio City Music Hall.  Devo.  Be There!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A couple PRs in the gym

Where did this come from?  We've been doing some work on power snatches and power cleans with push jerks the past few Tuesdays.  Last night was a testing night on those lifts.  To be honest, I'd missed more of the sessions than I'd made, and I still had a decent night last night.

I do have to admit that I think my vacation helped me out a bit.  I had been to CrossFit 15-17 days per month for the past 6 months before October.  I think my October total will be at most 10 days.  I did put in 4 gym days last week, but only 2 the week before, 1 the week before that, and 0 the week before.  So, I'm somewhat rested, but also under-trained.

I was active while away from the gym, but spending 6 hours in a river chasing trout does not exactly elicit a training effect.  I also slept poorly on Monday night because my right shoulder was bothering me for no apparent reason.  I tend to sleep on my right side and I had a poor night of sleep and wondered if I should even try the Olympic lifts, especially going for a 1 rep max.

I had a pretty good warm-up at the gym.  We started with some dynamic stuff - mostly body weight movements, but we also did some mobility work to get the shoulders working.  By the time we were done, I'd decided to approach the first part of the workout slowly, and just see how it felt.

I started at 53# for power snatches.  Yep, that's not a typo.  I worked on some shrugs, hang pulls, and eventually hang power snatches.  Things felt OK, so I moved up to 73# and repeated the work.  Still OK, so I moved to 93#.  At this weight, I did a single hang power snatch and one power snatch.  Still OK, so one to 103#.  A single power snatch felt OK, so I moved ahead, planning just single reps at each weight.  I hit 113# just fine and went to 125.5#.  Until late summer, that would have been a PR weight, but I got 133# late in the summer.  I hit 125.5# and added 10 pounds for a new PR attempt at 135.5.  I was actually surprised at how easily I got this weight for a new PR.  From there, I moved to 138 and I got the weight overhead, but I didn't get the full arm lockout needed to call it a valid snatch.  I thought about trying again, but instead, moved on to the power clean/push jerk combos.

I started at 113, 133, and 153 - all weights I knew I could handle, and I did multiple reps at the lower weights.  My all time best clean is 195# and my best C&J is 185#.  From 153#, I moved to 163#, 173#, and then an attempt at 185.5#.  I hadn't cleaned that much in quite a while, and I wasn't sure if I could even pull that off.  I was very surprised when the weight came to my shoulders fairly easily.  The push press was a little shaky, but I got it - a second PR.  But, I still felt like I had more in me, and I moved to 188#.  This time, the clean was a bit tougher but the push jerk was smoother - another PR.  I was pretty sure I could have cleaned 200# or more, and I might have gotten over 190# overhead.  But, the second part of the workout was 100 burpees for time, so I needed to save something.

For years, I've wanted to break 10 minutes for 100 burpees.  We have guys in our gym - young, skinny guys - that can go sub-5.  I just want sub-10.  My previous time doing 100 burpees solo (I'd done it as part of a bigger workout on the 4th of July) was last July, and I'd done 11:05.  To be honest, I didn't think I had a shot at that either.  I also hate this workout because I'm always the last to finish, and everyone is encouraging me as they finish, and I feel pressured to push harder.  When I push hard on burpees, I have a tendency to go too hard and end up puking.  So, for most of the day, I'd told myself that I'd just do 80 and call it a good workout.

I did 13 in the first minute, 9 in the second minute and 8 in the third, giving me 31 for 3 minutes.  Right then, it was clear that 10 minutes was not going to happen, but I kept pushing.  By the time I started my 51st rep, 2 guys had already finished.  I muttered a bad word under my breath.  By the time I was approaching 80, almost everyone was done.  But, about rep 75, I had decided I was going to finish the 100, no matter how slow I was.

If I exclude the person who didn't really do 100 reps, by the time I did my 82nd rep, everyone else was done.  We were in a big circle in the main part of the gym, I was tired, and I had 18 reps to do solo.  I was not happy, but I just kept plugging away.  Every 2-3 reps, I'd take a short breather before I hopped back to the squat position.  I tried my best to ignore everyone else in the gym.  Just do one more.  One more.  One more.

Finally, I got there in 11:55.  I was slower than a year ago.  I'm heavier and older now, but to be honest, I was pretty happy with my time.  I know I can improve.  If I lost 30 pounds of the excess fat that I carry around, sub-10 would be automatic.

All in all it was a good night.  I've had more good days than bad days at the gym since my vacation.  I really think the rest helped my body to recover a bit, and I'm having more fun now than I have had in a while.

Next time we do 100 burpees, I'm getting sub-10.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Transition Time

After 3 weeks of very few workouts (lots of fly fishing in there, plus an almost-concert and an NHL game), I finally got back to the gym this week.

It seems that things have really changed in those 3 weeks.  Not in the gym, so much, but in the outside world.  I've actually been happy with my workouts this week.  I think the rest did me some good, and I've felt strong and a bit refreshed in the gym this week.  I've been a bit sore but still feeling relatively strong.

But, the outside world has changed.  It's now dark when I get up at 6:30 in the morning.  It's dark again when I leave the gym after my workout.  We had snow accumulations in the mountains last weekend.  My daughter is asking when we are going to light a fire in the wood stove, because the house is cold.  I have an appointment tomorrow to get some maintenance work done on my snow blower.  On Sunday, I'll be at Sugarbush for most of the day, doing my pre-season ski instructor orientation.

It seems that the older I get, the faster each season just blows right by.  It seems like trout season just opened a few weeks ago, on a cold wet weekend in April.  And while I'll still fish for a couple more weeks, it's about time to put the fly rods away and get the skis tuned up.  I need a new helmet and new ski gloves for this season and I haven't ordered them yet.

I need to rent my daughter's skis for the season, something I normally due in early October.  I still have some winterizing to do around the house.

And, I haven't stacked my firewood yet, but that one is not my fault.  I don't even have my firewood yet.  Apparently, the person we buy our wood from got married this summer.  While he was on his honeymoon, the person who covered his firewood business sold a lot of wood.  That included 4 cords of wood that my wife and I had reserved in April.  Trying to find firewood in the fall in Vermont is a fool's errand.

We had reserved 4 cords at a price that seemed fairly high to me - $260 per cord.  All we've been able to find so far is quality dry wood, but at $370 a cord.  So, one person's business error is going to cost me an additional $110/cord for firewood.  While the original seller has been apologetic, he certainly hasn't offered to help pay that extra money.

This weekend, I need to finish the winterizing work - mostly rain gutter stuff.  I still need to take the air conditioners out of the bedroom windows and store them for the winter.  I'll probably sneak in a little bit of fishing.  Snow tires go on the first car next Friday.

Soon, it will be what Vermonters call stick season - that time of year after the leaves have fallen from the trees, but before we have snow on the ground.  Once we hit stick season, the long range weather forecast starts to become important, telling us when we can expect to start skiing.  I have occasionally skied in early November, but it's been a while.  Last year, my first day was November 17th.  I'd be happy to be on snow that soon this season.

And, it will probably seem like just a couple weeks until I'm back in Addison County for the opening of trout season.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lots and Lots of No CrossFit at All

I just spent most of the last two weeks on vacation.  I worked on September 26th, and went to CrossFit after work that night.  After that, I was on vacation, with a primary goal of catching trout.

For the first week or so, I mostly fished with my wife, and the fishing was terrible.  Or maybe I'm a terrible fisherman, because I was seeing posts on Facebook from local guides and fly fishing shops that indicated others were catching trout.  In reality, our streams were really low, and I think that had the fish holding deep and not being very active.

After 4 days of fishing and then a day of work around the house, my wife and I headed to Boston to meet some college friends and see a concert by Bryan Ferry, who we've wanted to see for years.  We were a bit nervous about the show, because he had canceled two shows in DC earlier in the week.  But, the night before the Boston show, he played in NYC.  So, we headed to Boston.  Very late in the afternoon, the show was canceled.  This happened after we'd committed a fair amount of travel money to see the show, and we were not happy at all.  The notice to ticket-holders was sent by e-mail after 5:00 for a 7:30 show.  In DC, the cancellations had happened by noon.  If we'd heard by noon, we probably would have just returned home, having only spent a lot of gas money.

His next show was 2 nights later, and I'm sure the fans in Philly were thrilled.  He added Don't Stop the Dance to his set list, a song he hadn't been playing and a favorite of mine from his solo work.

So, we headed home on Friday, very disappointed and a whole lot poorer.  Saturday, it rained all day, so we basically goofed off. I was optimistic that the rain would help the fishing, but when my wife and I headed out on Sunday, we got skunked again.

On Monday, my wife returned to work, but I had three days left to fish, and I finally started to catch some fish.  After three good days of fishing, I returned to work on Thursday, for my first CrossFit workout in 13 days.  Despite the workout being easier than average (40 ring rows, 30 man-makers, 1000m row, 60 kettlebell swings, and 56 goblet squats), I'm still hurting today.  But, I have a medical appointment today, so I can't get to the gym anyway.

One great thing about the vacation was getting to see my daughter play a lot of soccer.  My wife and I don't get to as many of her games as we'd like, due to working an hour from home, and their early starting times.  They are having a rough season, but it's nice to be there to support her.  I've been to 4 of her last 5 games and I hope to make it to tomorrow's game as well.

So now, it's back to normal.  We are trying to get ready for winter, although we found out this week that our firewood supplier "accidentally" sold our 4 cords of wood to someone else, and we now have no firewood at all for this winter.  A local company that we really dislike (blatantly political company whose politics we don't agree with) has some very expensive wood, and we might be forced to hold our noses and pay up.

My first pre-season ski school meeting is in 2 weeks.  There were some snow flurries in the mountains yesterday.  The days are getting short.

But, I will continue to fish until it's time to ski.  And, I'll probably go to a lot of CrossFit classes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Eleven more days of the same

CrossFit, CrossFit, CrossFit.  And more CrossFit.

A little fishing on the weekends.

I'm enjoying college football, especially with Penn State off to a 3-0 start for the first time in 5 years.

Work is busy.

I saw King Crimson in concert last week.

So, life isn't boring, but I'm either too busy to write or nothing seems interesting enough to write about.  I probably should write a review of the King Crimson show.

I'll do it when I have time.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Nothing but CrossFit

I last posted early last week.  Since, then, my life has pretty much been nothing but CrossFit.

Well, we made a trip to the Finger Lakes region of NY with some friends for Labor Day weekend.  That wasn't CrossFit.  But, everything else was CrossFit.

I did skip the gym last Thursday.  My wife and I were exhausted and we came straight home from work.  I snuck out for about 75 minutes of fly fishing and caught one fish.

I ended the month of August with 17 CF days.  That was the third straight month of 17 days and the fifth in a row with 15 or more days.  I'm going to continue trying to get to the gym at least 15 days per month for as long as I can.  I should be able to pull that off this month, but next month will be more challenging.  I've got a 12 day vacation scheduled for next month, and I am planning to fish and work on the house for most of those days.  CrossFit might be tough to fit in, but I'll be busy and active.

Perhaps a week or more away from the gym will let my tired old body recover and heal a bit from all of the recent hard work.

Tonight will be back squats and front squats for strength work, followed by front squats and push-ups for conditioning.

Tomorrow will be a rest day, at least from a training perspective.  I have work to do around the house, and I will try to do some fishing, but no workout.

Unless I change my mind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Still on a roll in the gym

I've had a few really good weeks in the gym, although I have to admit that I am really beat up from yesterday's workout.  We've been doing lots of testing the past few weeks and I've been happy with almost every workout.

Let's go back to last Monday, where the first part of the workout was to work to a 1 rep max squat.  I tend to think of myself as having two PRs in the squat.  Last year, I made a very concerted effort to work on mobility and get my squat to an appropriate depth.  Before last year, I'd done a 375 pound squat, but I know my depth was not OK.  Last year, I re-focused on form and I got to a 350 pound squat with good depth.

We've just completed a 16 week cycle in the gym focusing on squats, bench presses and deadlifts.  But, when we started, I was still feeling less than 100% after my January surgery, so I was somewhat cautious, especially with squats and deadlifts, where the total weight I'm lifting is high enough to cause injuries.

Through the cycle, I'd worked up to 315 a couple times, but never higher than that.  Last Monday, I worked up to 305 in my warm-up and then went for my heaviest reps since late November last year - the day I did 350#.  I got 335 fairly easily.  I got 355, but it was a challenge.  After some rest, I put 375 on my back and stepped back from the rack, but I could tell it wasn't there.  I simply re-racked the bar and called it a day.  So, I was better than my 350 in November, but I'm still not back to 375, and I still need to get 375 with good depth someday.

On Wednesday, we did bench presses.  I had done 200 (a PR) two weeks earlier, so my goal was at least 205 this day.  My warm-ups took me up to 165.  Then, I did 185 and it was difficult but not too bad.  I managed 205 as well on my next lift.  And then, I failed at 210.  I think if I'd skipped 205 and gone straight to 210, I might have gotten it.

Friday was deadlift day.  I'd done 405 two weeks prior, and I hoped to get 410 this day.  My all time best is 440, but I simply haven't recovered enough from my surgery to do the training to get back there yet.  The 405 two weeks ago had been a major struggle.

I did warm-up reps through 345.  My first hard rep was 375 and it felt like work.  From there, I went to 410, and I was disappointed to not make the lift.  The bar was still moving when I bailed, but I felt like my back was rounded and my shoulders weren't back enough, and the injury risk seemed too high.  I then tried 395 and failed again.  This was my 5th consecutive day of CrossFit and I was tired, so that might have affected this lift.  But, this is probably my best lift overall and I still need time to return to my previous level.

Yesterday, I was surprised to see that we were testing again - this time for the front squat.  Like the back squat, I consider myself to have two PRs on this lift.  With a cross-grip, I've done 280.  With the correct grip, I've only ever done 250.  About a year ago, I decided to abandon the cross-grip and force myself to work on the proper grip and related mobility to this lift correctly.  I did warm-up sets to 225 and then switched to singles.  I nailed a single at 255 - a 5 pound PR for the proper grip.  From there, I decided to jump to 285, and I got that one as well.  I made one attempt at 295 and failed.  However, if I'd gone straight from 255 to 295, I think I might have made it - still room for improvement.

When I started CrossFit, my best deadlift was 365.  My back squat was 265.  My front squat was 135.  My bench press 175.  My snatch PR didn't even exist.  Those numbers are now 440, 355, 285, 205 and 133, and all but one of those numbers has come in the past two weeks.  Not bad for an old fat guy.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A couple PRs in the gym.

When I last posted, I was getting ready to go after a bench press PR.  But, I also neglected to mention something that I thought was nothing, but became more of an issue.

Two Friday's ago, we did heavy deadlifts and finished the workout with some running.  My left knee (ACL replaced 12 years ago) was sore the next couple days.  I didn't know why my knee was sore, but I had worn brand new shoes, I ran without orthotics, I deadlifted very heavy, and I didn't wear the knee sleeves I usually wear for lifting.

I rested through Monday and then squatted heavy on Tuesday.  No pain at all on Wednesday.  That day, I got my bench press PR at 200 pounds and it was easier than I expected.  I'm sure I can lift 205-210, and I'll get a chance to prove that next week.

After the bench press work, we did a workout that included clean and jerks and 400 meter repeats.  No knee sleeves, my shoes were still fairly new and I didn't wear orthotics.  On Thursday, my knee was sore again.  I pushed through Thursday and Friday and things were no worse.  All weekend, I was sore though.  By Tuesday, I felt good again.

On Tuesday, our workout was simple.  In 45 minutes, establish a 1 rep max snatch, a 1 rep max clean and jerk, and then after the 45 minutes, run a mile all out.  The running definitely scared me.

I was happy with the Olympic lifting.  My PR for the snatch (due to shoulder mobility I use the power snatch rather than a full depth snatch) has been stuck at 125 pounds for 3+ years, and as recently as six months ago, I said that I may never try to snatch that heavy again.  My shoulder mobility is simply not that good and it's a dangerous lift for my shoulder.  But, my mobility is improving over time and my shoulder seems pretty healthy, and I decided to give it a shot.  I warmed up at 73 and then 93.  Then, I did 2 reps at 103 and 1 at 113.  At that point, I added 15 pounds to the bar, putting it at 128, which would be a PR.  It wasn't pretty, but I got it.  For the first time in a while, I got to ring the "PR bell" at the gym.  The coach who watched me lift 128 said he thought I could do more.  So, I went to 133.  At first, I failed when I didn't get my left arm locked out.  But, it had been close, so I tried again.  And I nailed it.  No shoulder pain at all.

Next, my clean and jerks weren't so good.  My best C&J is 185 and my best clean is 190.  I started at 95, and warmed up through 115 and 135.  Those were weights I knew I could hit.  I made 155 as well, but this is still well off my best.  At 175, I made the clean but failed the jerk badly.  On a second attempt, I missed the clean and I knew it was time to be done.

With the mile coming up, I put on my knee sleeves and put my orthotics in my shoes.  I don't even want to comment on how old and fat and slow I am, but let's say I ran the mile with no pain.

Trying to be cautious, I took Wednesday as a rest day (the workout was 150 medicine ball squats with a throw to a 10' line at the top of the squat).  I came back last night with dumbbell bench presses, 3 point dumbbell rows, kettlebell swings and sled pulls.  Again, no pain in the knee.

Hopefully, it won't happen again, but I'll pay attention.  I've had very few issues with that knee since my surgery and subsequent rehab, and I don't want to start a pattern of long term issues either.

Tonight, we have moderate deadlifts (deloading week), stiff legged deadlifts, shoulder-to-overheads, box jumps and toes-to-bar.  Over the weekend, I'm hoping to fish, I have to mow the lawn, and I'll try to get in a little running.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Some CrossFit stats

We got to CrossFit 5 days last week.  Weekends are a rarity, because the gym is close to our offices, but far from our home.  After commuting all week, we rarely feel like making the drive on a Saturday or Sunday.

So, a 5-workout week is very good, if it doesn't wipe us out so much that we are at risk of injury.  This was my 3rd week this year going 5 days.  In 2013, this only happened once.  In 2012, only once.  In 2011, twice.

If I exclude the time I missed during this past winter due to surgery, my training has been very consistent this year.  Here is a graph of my CrossFit workouts by month since I first started:



It's clear that I get to the gym more often outside of ski season.  And, January through February were low this year due to surgery in early January.  I returned to teaching skiing in early February, and my body wasn't ready for more than a couple CrossFit workouts per week in addition to the skiing for a while.

I am happy about my last 4 months.  With 64 workouts, this was my best 4-month total ever.

I'm still recovering some strength I lost due to the surgery.

Last summer, I did a single rep deadlift at 440 pounds.  Last Friday, I did 3 reps at 375.  I can probably do a single rep at 405 or so right now, but definitely not 440.

My legitimate back squat best is 350 pounds.  I once did 375 pounds, but my depth wasn't legal.  Last night, I did one rep at 315, my best since my surgery.

My bench press has always been terrible.  Years of participating in leg-dominant sports has left my upper body playing catch-up since I started lifting regularly in 2007.  Two years ago, I hit 195 for a bench press.  Last year, I tied that number in June.  Tonight, I will take my first crack at 200 ever.

So, my strength is improving, although I'm still playing catch-up to last year.  Regretfully, my bodyweight work still leaves a lot to be desired.  Last night, we had 8 minutes to do as many reps as possible, cycling 8 pull-ups, 8 box jumps and 8 burpees.  These might be my three weakest bodyweight movements (that I can actually do), and my score was terrible.

So, while I enjoy pushing in the gym, perhaps more of my efforts should be spent controlling what I'm eating when I'm not in the gym.

For now, I'm healthy and I'm improving again.  That's good enough.  And, if I can average about 15 CF workouts per month for the rest of the year, I'll exceed last year's total despite the tough start I had this year.