Thursday, April 24, 2014

Nothing But CrossFit, It Seems

CrossFit last Saturday wasn't as hard as I expected.  It was four rounds of rope jumping, push-ups and power cleans.  Without a doubt, push-ups, even band-assisted were my weak point.  There were 100 total in the workout and I was doing them in sets of 2 or 3 by the end.  My total time for the workout was just over 20 minutes.

After CrossFit, my wife and I enjoyed a great day and night in Burlington.  We met with friends for brunch, visited Citizen Cider, had a snack and a glass of wine at Leunig's Bistro, checked into our hotel, took a nap, visited two wine bars, and then met friends for dinner at Hen of the Wood.  We certainly took in more calories than we had burned at CF, but it was fun to spend a day on the town.

Sunday was a rest day because we were celebrating a couple family birthdays (my daughter is now 16, which makes me wonder where the years have gone), and I had a lot of cooking to do.

Since Sunday, we've been at CrossFit every day.  Monday was squats, running and shoulder-to-overhead lifts (any technique was legal - strict press, push press, push jerk, split jerk, etc.).  Regretfully, I tweaked something in my knee on a squat set, and had to back off on the weight.  It's still a little bit tender today, but I don't think it's a big deal.

Tuesday was Olympic lifting followed by ring rows, hang power cleans, and burpees.  Wednesday, we started trying to get to the highest weight split jerk that we could accomplish.  I worked up to 175 with no failures by the end of our allotted time.  My best ever for this lift is 180, and I might be able to get to that number soon.  After the jerks, we did deadlifts, push-ups, and rope jumping.

Tonight, I will start with bench presses and probably some more rope jumping.  After that, we will be doing rowing, sit-ups, and weighted box step-ups.

Tomorrow is a rest day.  Thankfully.

I'll either do CrossFit or run on Saturday.  Sunday, I'm hoping to ski or fish or possibly do both.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Mid-week CrossFit

After a run on Monday afternoon, my plan for the rest of the week was to go to CrossFit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, take a rest day Friday, and go to CrossFit again on Saturday.  The three days of CrossFit are in the books, and they were the three toughest workout days I've had in a while.  Yesterday, in particular, was a very tough workout.

Tuesday started with Olympic lifting - 8x3 power snatches and then 8x3 squat cleans.  I kept the weight light on the snatches, and did power snatches rather than the squat snatches on the board.  I'm still trying to protect the shoulder that was injured last year, and if this means dialing back certain lifts permanently, that's what I'll do.  The squat cleans went OK, but the weight was lower than I would have liked.  I certainly could have gone higher for singles.  After that, we did three rounds for time of 50 air squats, 25 pull-ups (band-assisted for me), and 10 hang power cleans.  I did this in just under 13 minutes.  The first round of air squats took 70 seconds and the last round took almost 2 minutes.  So, even a bodyweight movement can suffer as the fatigue sets in.

Wednesday we started with 10x3 split jerks.  I started light here at 115# and eventually worked to 135#.  My clean and jerk PR is 185#, but again, we were doing multi-rep sets, and I wanted to protect the shoulder.  I still felt this one the rest of the evening.  After the jerks, we had 12 minutes to do as many reps as possible of 12 burpees, 12 box jumps, and 12 deadlifts (225#).  I knew I'd be really slow on this one.  I'm slow at burpees all the time.  I hadn't done any box jumps since my surgery, and I'd been doing box step-ups instead, but I wanted to do the jumps in this workout.  And finally, while 225# is not a heavy deadlift for me, a set of 12 was pretty significant.  I also wanted to do every burpee with correct form, rather than the lazy technique I sometimes use where I stand up rather than jumping up from the bottom position.  I told my wife that I would have the fewest reps in the gym, and I was right.  I got through 2 rounds, and nearly completed the third, ending up 6 deadlifts short.  My wife was wiped out from the workout and asked me to drive home.

Thursday had no barbells at all, but it might have been the hardest workout I've done all year.  I started with 10 x 200m run, starting every 2 minutes.  I hit most reps in 53-55 seconds - pretty slow compared to my running days, but OK for now.  After doing that running, the rest of the workout was a lung burner as well - 15 minutes for max reps of 10 push-ups, 15 sit-ups and 20 kettlebell swings @ 45#.  I managed 5 rounds plus the push-ups in the sixth, but I was gassed the whole time.  For the push-ups, I would get 6 or 7 and then rest a bit.  The sit-ups were the "rest" period in this workout.  And, 20 unbroken kettlebell swings simply became a mental game by the end.  I did end up breaking the 4th set into a 15 and a 5, but I did the 5th set unbroken.  My wife beat me by 2 reps.  Good for her.

I am quite glad that today is a rest day.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fishing Season and a Medical Check-up

After surgery for prostate cancer, there is really one primary marker to determine if the cancer is gone or if it's recurred.  That is the blood test for PSA - Prostate Specific Antigen.  Even when prostate cancer leaves the prostate and takes root in other parts of the body, those cells still produce PSA.  The test is a measure of nanograms of PSA per milliliter of blood.  When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, my PSA was about 5.  The upper end of the normal range is 4, and many doctors think scores above 2.5 should be investigated more carefully.

After surgery, the score should be as close to zero as possible.  There are two types of PSA tests - a standard test and an ultra-sensitive test.  If the ultra-sensitive test is used, even a person who has been cured by surgery will likely have a value of .02 or so.  In the standard test, the hope is that the PSA will be undetectable - less than a certain value that is the machine's limit for detection.

These tests are done quarterly for a year or so after surgery, then every six months for a couple more years, and then annually.  At age 75 or so, they can usually be discontinued.  These tests create a lot of anxiety for post-op men.  If that PSA get to 0.2, the doctors call this a biochemical recurrence, and this means you need further treatment.  For me, this would probably mean radiation and drugs to reduce my testosterone levels to near zero.  The side effects and quality of life issues with those treatments are not pleasant.  So, heading into the test, I was certainly anxious.

Luckily, I had the opening day of trout season to keep me occupied all weekend.  My son and I entered a fly fishing tournament in Middlebury for the second year in a row.  We had to be there by 5:00 on Friday to register.  On the way there, we stopped at two rivers to look at water flows.  What we saw was disheartening - high, off-color water from melting snow run-off.  The Neshobe looked fishable, but the Middlebury looked impossible.  However, the temperature Friday night was supposed to go below freezing, so we hoped the run-off would subside by Saturday morning.

So, we went to the meeting.  Then, we went to a fly fishing movie - the Fly Fishing Film Tour.  I have to say that I enjoyed last year's movie a bit more.  Last year was more pure "fishing porn", while this movie was a bit more political and also featured one sequence about super-rich guys and their private tarpon fishing tournament.  Nonetheless, it was great to watch very good fishermen catching huge fish.  A segment shot in Alaska, where people fished exclusively with mouse patterns for big rainbows and graylings was very cool.

After the movie, we grabbed a late dinner and then I set up our fishing rods for the next day.  My son is not a morning person, so the plan was for me to fish very early and get him mid-morning.  I headed to the Neshobe and had a nice stretch of water all to myself for most of the time I was there.  However, the water was cold and the fish simply weren't cooperating.  I didn't have a single strike the entire morning.  I then got my son and we fished three different spots on the New Haven River.  The first was tough because the water was so high.  The second was more fishable, but wading was treacherous.  The third was way up in the watershed, and wading was fine.  The fishing wasn't though.  We didn't get a strike all day, and at 1:15 we headed back to Middlebury to turn in our blank scorecards.

As things turned out, 70+ fishermen and fisherwomen combined to catch 5 trout all day.  That's it.

My son and I took a nap after fishing, had a nice dinner, watched some hockey, and I got to sleep early.  I woke up overnight to hear rain falling.  I was up before first light and fishing the Middlebury before sunrise.  Regretfully, the Middlebury gets a lot of runoff from a ski resort, and the temperature had not gone below freezing on Saturday night, and it was raining.  The river was high and off color.  Two hours of fishing in the rain left me cold and frustrated.  Still no fish.  We had changed tactics from the previous day, going with sinking leaders and stripping white streamers deep.  That had been the ticket for the few fish caught the day before.

After I got my son, we headed to the New Haven River again, and this time, went to the most popular spot on the river.  I caught my biggest brown trout of the season there last year.  There were a few other fishermen there, but we had plenty of room.  But, the remainder of the morning was a comedy of errors.  My son's back cast landed in a tree.  He couldn't get the flies back and had to snap the line.  I gave him my rod to fish while I re-rigged his rod.  Before I could get it re-rigged, he was stuck in the trees again.  He walked away from the scene, clearly frustrated.  I got him calmed down and we both got back to fishing.  My streamer was deep and I felt it stop - fish or the bottom of the river?  I set the hook and the rod simply snapped.  It was an older rod, probably purchased in 1988 or so, and the manufacturer is out of business.   The rod served me well for many years.  Finally, about 11:00, cold, soaking wet, and without a single strike in two days, we decided we'd had enough.

We changed into some dry clothes and went downtown to turn in two more blank scorecards.  Five fish were caught on Sunday, bringing the tournament total to 10.  At the awards barbecue, my son won a nice box of flies from Montana Fly Company.  I won a hat and a leader.  The tournament winners each got an $800 fly rod.  Someday maybe.

And then we headed home.  Even though we caught no fish, it was fun to be on the water again.  And, the fishing distracted me from that PSA test I was talking about.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to Dartmouth for that test.  I got there about 90 minutes before my appointment and had my blood drawn.  It's really nice that they do these results quickly, rather than making you wait a few days.  I went for a run for about 45 minutes - another distraction.  And then, it was appointment time.  The first words out of my surgeon's mouth were "Your PSA is undetectable".  After that, we talked about a number of other issues I've had recovering from the surgery.  But, none of them really mattered.  All that mattered was that I'd "passed" my first PSA test.

July 14th, I get it done again.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hitting a Wall

After my run-ski-run on Saturday-Sunday-Monday, I returned to CrossFit on Tuesday.  The schedule called for some Olympic lifting, but I opted for some squat work that others had done on Monday.  I did 3x5 of back squats and front squats at moderate weights.  Then, a bunch of rope jumping and pull-ups.  I screwed up a bit, not realizing I was supposed to be doing some burpees in each set,

Wednesday, we started with 7 sets of bench presses in a rep scheme of 5-3-3-2-2-2-20.  I was happy with my weights here, hitting 165 for the last set of 2, and easily getting 20 reps at 105 to finish.  My lifetime PR in the bench press is 190, and I've done that weight once in each of the last 2 years.  My goal for this year is to finally crack the 200 mark.  That's really a pathetic bench press goal, but after 25+ years of being a runner and many years as a skier, my legs are way stronger than my upper body.  At my age, it takes a long time to make progress on some of these power lifts.

We followed up the bench presses with deadlifts, wall balls and an assistance lift for rope climbing - laying on the floor and pulling on the rope to get to a standing position.  One of these days, I'll actually do rope climbs like the real athletes at the gym.

Yesterday, I felt tired when I got to the gym.  My plan was to do burpees and practice rope jumping "double unders" before the main workout of rowing and kettlebell swings.  I ran half a mile to warm up, and I realized I was just exhausted.  I had gone 5 straight days and 9 out of 10, and I was just shot.  So, I decided after the half mile that I'd take a rest day.

I'm only working half a day today, and I'm planning on a short run at lunchtime.  Then, my son and I are heading to Middlebury for the weekend to fish in the Otter Creek Classic fly fishing tournament.  We have no illusions about winning anything, but it will be fun to be on the rivers again.  And, I get to hang out with my son for the weekend.  If I'm lucky, this year I won't get shut out.  Last year, neither of us caught a fish.  Neither of us hooked a fish.  I'm not sure if either of us even had a legit strike.  I caught my first fish of the season on May 1st last year, and opening day is often a very slow fishing day.  The water is high and cold and often off-color.  But, the weather looks good and I'll be fishing at first light tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


No, it wasn't all on the same day.

My wife and I never got out running last Friday night because of the weather.  Just as we were about to start our run, a hard rain started to fall.  It turned out to be a good idea to not run in the rain, because the temperature dropped about 10 degrees in 30 minutes once the rain hit.  My wife was somewhat relieved not to run anyway.  She was hurting from the previous four days at CrossFit.

So, I ran by myself Saturday afternoon.  It was my first real run in quite a while, even though it was short - 3 miles.  According to my training logs, my last run that long or longer was on 9/28/2013 - over 5 months ago.  I was slow, but the run went fine.

Sunday, we enjoyed a bluebird day of skiing.  The mountain was in variable shape after the rain Friday night had frozen at higher elevations, leaving a lot of the mountain coated with a nasty crust.  We (my wife and my daughter and I) started out on the North Lynx chair, which serves south-facing terrain, and we had some nice runs on the soft snow.  We skied for a while with one of my instructor buddies, who was playing on tele gear.  Later, another friend joined us and he even took my daughter into a tree run that I rarely ski.  It turned out to be firm and slick in the trees due to the lack of sunshine getting through the trees to the snow.  We decided that trees might not be the best terrain choice for the remainder of the day, which disappointed my daughter.

After our time on North Lynx, we grabbed some lunch and then headed for the summit.  Ripcord had been groomed Friday night, and either the crust had been broken up by the groomers or by subsequent skiers.  Still, the terrain was variable and it didn't take long to decide we really didn't want to return to the summit.  I headed with some other instructors to Castlerock, while my wife and daughter opted for some easier terrain for the rest of the afternoon.  We did two runs in Castlerock and found variable conditions.  Anything that had received a decent dose of sun was soft and forgiving.  Anything in the shade was frozen and treacherous.  On Castlerock Run, it was clear that spring is on its way.  There were a number of bare spots, and we opted to finish the run on Cotillion, rather than the more melted out Lower Castlerock Run.

We returned to the base and hopped on Super Bravo, wondering what to do next.  I admitted that I was ready to call it a day and have a beer in the pub.  Everyone else agreed and we did an easy run back to the locker room to change out of our ski boots.  Because I can't ski the next two weekends, I emptied my locker and took all of my gear home.  I expect to ski the weekend of 4/26-4/27, but just in case we get hit by some extremely warm weather between now and then, I didn't want to risk having my gear in the locker room all summer.

Monday, I had a doctor's appointment, so I worked from home for the day.  After work and the appointment, I went out for a short run.  I ran on muddy dirt roads, and it was nice to run in shorts for the first time this season.  I was slower than Saturday, but the run was hillier and I was slowed down by a lazy dog who I'd taken along for the run.

The next three days, I'll be at CrossFit.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Great workout week

I went to CrossFit 4 consecutive days this week, the first time I've done 4 in a row since last August.  There were weeks in the fall with 4 workouts, but it was usually Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  After 4 tough days, I'm surprised to feel as good as I do.  My wife is fairly sore and beat up from the same 4 days.

Monday, we started with an attempt to get a 1-rep back squat max.  I didn't go all out, but I did work my way up to 285 pounds, easily my best since surgery.  After that, we did some front squats, hanging knee raises, and rope jumping.

Tuesday was all barbell work.  We started with 12 x 3 hang power snatches, every minute on the minute.  I kept this weight low, given the volume and the rest of the workout.  Ever since my shoulder injury last summer, I've pretty much decided that I will continue to do the Olympic lifts, but I'm not going to force the weight on them.  And, I'm not going to do any overhead squats (this includes full squat snatches) at all unless I can improve my shoulder mobility.  Next we did 12 x 3 hang power cleans, and I did them at 95#.  And then the main workout was 30 clean and jerks for time.  The prescribed weight was 135#, but I did them at 95#, with a time of 4:09.  One beast of a guy in our gym has done this workout at 135# in 1:39.  That will never be me.

Wednesday was 5x5 strict (military) press.  I did the sets at 95, 100, 105, 105 and 105.  I nearly failed in the last set, so I was right at my limit.  Then, for time, 40 burpees, 30 pull-ups, 20 push presses, and 10 snatches.  I kept the last two fairly light after the shoulder work the night before.

Thursday, I did 20 alternating sets of 2 deadlifts at 275# and 5 bench presses at 100#, doing one set per minute.  This was the heaviest deadlifting I'd done since my surgery and it felt OK.  My bench press is slowly improving and I'm hoping this will finally be the year I get over 200 pounds.  Then, we finished with rowing and ball slams, using a 40 pound ball, in alternating sets.

Tonight, my wife and I are going to go for a short run after work.  Tomorrow will start with some ugly weather, so I'll probably take a rest day and then ski on Sunday.

I'm really happy with the level of training my body seems willing to accept right now.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Life seems to be getting back to normal

It's been just over 12 weeks since my surgery for prostate cancer.  I was told that I could resume certain activities, like skiing and easy running, at 4 weeks, as tolerated.  Weightlifting was supposed to wait until 6-8 weeks, but I did some light lifting before that.

However, I was told to expect it would be 3-4 months before I should expect to feel normal.  I'm just about at three months right now, and I think I've finally hit that mark.

Last week, I was able to do a hard CrossFit workout and then ski hard the following two days.  I only skied once over the weekend, so I went to CrossFit the last two nights.  I worked hard each of those nights and it felt good.  My plan for the rest of the week is two more days of CrossFit, a Friday evening jog with my wife, a rest day on Saturday most likely (rain in the forecast) and then skiing on Sunday.

The good news is I feel like I'm really ready to train hard again.  And my body is tolerating it so far, as long as I take some planned rest days.  But, at age 52, I think rest days are just a part of life.  If I tried to do CrossFit 6 or 7 days per week, I am sure I would end up over-trained and possibly injured.

I still have some milestones to deal with from the surgery.  I have my first post-surgery PSA test on 4/14.  I am sure I will be anxious about that test.  Basically, as long as my PSA remains undetectable, there are no more treatments required.  According to some nomograms on Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital's web site, I have only a 3%-4% chance of a recurrence in the next 10 years.  At five years, doctors start to use the word "cured" for cases like mine.

But, if I do end up with detectable PSA levels, I would be looking at radiation treatment, possibly in conjunction with Androgen Deprivation Treatment, something that seriously and negatively affects quality of life for men.  But, the odds are with me, and I'm anticipating a good lab result on 4/14.

I still have some side effects from the surgery that have not resolved, but I remain optimistic that they will resolve with time.

So, I'm looking forward to skiing some more this season.  I'm looking forward to trout fishing.  I'm looking forward to running and hiking and biking this coming spring and summer.  I'm looking forward to shedding the body fat that I've added since my surgery.

I'm looking forward to a mini-vacation weekend with my wife in a few weeks.

And, I'm looking forward to a lot of lab tests in the future that show no detectable levels of PSA in my blood.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Seasonal Transition

This past weekend, for the first time in quite a while, I didn't have to ski on Saturday and Sunday.  That doesn't mean I didn't want to ski, but there was no requirement to be out there.

After a hard workout last Tuesday and two hard skiing days on Wednesday and Thursday, Friday was a rest day.  My wife and I even stopped by Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier on the way home from work to enjoy some of their great beverages and food.

Saturday we slept in a bit, due to freezing rain the night before.  We knew the mountain would be icy to start, so there was no hurry to get there.  It was almost noon before we were ready to ski.  We skied one warm-up run with some friends and then took a break for lunch.  After that, we pretty much skied until the lifts closed.  We skied a few runs off the Lincoln Peak summit, but things were pretty icy and sketchy even in the afternoon.  My two ski school buddies (both Level 3 PSIA certified - I'm only a 2) wanted to push to harder terrain.  I wanted to ski with my wife, on terrain where she would be comfortable.  So, we split up for the second half of the afternoon.  While my buddies explored Paradise and Castlerock, we headed to North Lynx to enjoy some intermediate bump runs and easier black diamond terrain.  And, a little after 4:00 we all re-convened at our favorite post-skiing location, the Castlerock Pub.

We were looking at the TV monitor that always shows local weather, and options for Sunday didn't look so good - rain and freezing rain overnight, and then some altitude based snowfall on Sunday.  Earlier in the week, it had looked like Sunday's snowfall would be significant, but by now, it was looking more and more like rain, with a lot less potential snow.  As we left, I told my friends that I probably wouldn't ski on Sunday.  They said they'd text me with a conditions report, but one of them also told my wife they would say it was great no matter what.

Sunday morning, I slept in.  I caught up on internet stuff and drank a lot of coffee.  I had a late breakfast.  I worked on my taxes for a while.  I tied some flies.  I cooked.  I had a nice pile of wild mushrooms that I was cooking with grass-fed rib-eyes for dinner.  I had black trumpets, hedgehog, and yellowfoot chanterelles for the wild mushrooms, plus a pile of non-wild shiitake mushrooms.  My wife and I made an afternoon trip into town to get a first look at One Main Tap and Grill, a new restaurant that had opened downtown a week or so ago.  Clearly, they must have been busy, because only 16 of their 21 tap lines had any beer or cider at all.  They had sold out of quite a few flavors, but good options remained.  I was relieved to see mostly local beers and high quality craft brews from out of state.  No mega-breweries occupied the tap lines, although PBR and Bud Light were available by the can or bottle.

We took some fries home for my daughter (I swear she eats every 90 minutes) and I cooked dinner.  We drank our last bottle of 1993 Chateau Montelena Reserve Cabernet with the steaks.  It was amazing and I'm sorry that it was the last one.

Ski season isn't over yet.  I hope to ski in May of this year.  But, after being gone all day Saturday and Sunday all winter, it was nice to spend a weekend with my wife.  If I wasn't teaching, we could ski together all the time, but that just doesn't happen.

We will ski this coming weekend.  But, the weekend after that is the trout season opener, and I will skip skiing that weekend to fish with my son in a fly fishing tournament.  We do it for fun and I'm sure we will never win anything, but it's also a fund-raiser for a group that does a lot of work to preserve one of VT's best trout streams.

Sometime in April, I'm planning to ski and fly fish in the same day - something I've never done before.

Today or tomorrow, we expect to see 50 degrees for the first time in a long, long time.