Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CrossFit "Murph"

It's a CrossFit tradition to do a particular Hero WOD on Memorial Day.  That workout is named Murph, in honor of Michael Murphy (listed third at the previous link), a US soldier who died in Afghanistan in 2005.

I have done this workout before, but never at the gym on Memorial Day.  This year, my wife wanted to do it, and I knew better than to disagree.  The day before the workout, I went for a fairly easy run - just under an hour, and then spent a couple hours fly fishing through a narrow gorge, boulder hopping quite a bit.

When I got home from fishing, I think I drank at least 3 liters of water, trying to get ready for the workout.

The workout is fairly simple:

Run 1 mile
100 pull-ups
200 push-ups
300 bodyweight squats
Run 1 mile

The pull-ups, push-ups and squats can be done in any order desired.  Most people default to a 5-10-15 scheme or a 10-20-30 scheme.  I decided to start with 10-20-30 and move to 5-10-15 when I felt like the push-ups were getting to be too much.

For the record, I did band-assisted pull-ups and I did knee push-ups.  And I still sucked.  Looking through my logbooks, I hadn't done the workout since September of 2011.  At that point in time, I weighed about 20 pounds less than now and I was running a whole lot more than I've run the past year and a half.  It took me 54:11 to do the workout last time.  I was pretty sure I would be over an hour.

The coach suggested we could (and that some of us should) scale the workout, maybe doing 1/2 mile runs, or only doing 50% or 75% of the bodyweight reps.  I thought about it.  I was seriously unhappy when way more than half the people at the workout were either done or on their final run while I was at 75% of the bodyweight work.  I wanted to just go and do the last run and be done with it.

But, the workout is done on Memorial Day to honor a fallen soldier.  Cutting back just didn't seem right.  So, I continued on.  At about 55 minutes, I finally headed out for my run.  My wife was finishing her run just as I started mine.  I was slow and it hurt, but I finished in 66 minutes.

Today, every part of my body hurts.  We are supposed to do heavy squats at the gym tonight after 300 bodyweight squats yesterday.  Then, box step-ups with weight.  My quads are already sore and this will torch them.  And, then another Hero WOD, this one called DT.  Deadlifts, cleans, and shoulder-to-overhead reps - 5 rounds with the same barbell.  With a Hero WOD scheduled for every day this week, it's going to be a long week.

Friday, May 16, 2014

How about every other day for a while?

Monday was a brutal day at CF.  It was also my 6th workout in 7 days, and every single one of those workouts involved some running.  I had a conflict on Tuesday that clashed with my normal CrossFit time, so I took a rest day.  If' I'd really "needed" to do CrossFit, I could have gone at lunch.  But, I needed a break, and I took one.

Wednesday was another tough day at CrossFit.  I was really sore from the leg work on Monday.  The early part of the workout was bench presses, and I got through those OK, although I am a little worried about my overall progression on this lift.  We've been doing a Wendler 5-3-1 cycle in the gym.  My goal for Wednesday was 5 reps at 135, 3 at 155, and then max at 175.  If things were going as expected, I should have gotten 3-5 reps at 175.  Instead I got 1 rep and then failed (just barely) on the second.  This has always been a weak lift for me, and one of my goals for this year is to exceed 200 pounds.  I'd love to push well beyond that, but I don't do the bench press often enough for that to happen quickly.

After the bench presses and some high-rep/low-weight close grip bench presses, we moved on to the MetCon.  We had 12 minutes to pull a weighted sled 100m, do 10 power cleans, and 10 ring dips as many times as possible.  My legs were shot and the sled pulls and I didn't get along at all.  I completed the first round in about 3:30.  But, the second time through, my legs were really complaining and the sled drag was really slow.  Then, when I got to power cleans, my legs hurt so much that getting down to the proper start position was really tough.  And, the cleans left me gassed for ring rows.  The second round took me 5 minutes.  I only had 3:21 left to go as I headed for the third sled pull.  I had just cleared the turnaround when the coach yelled "90 seconds".  I at least wanted to finish and get one more power clean rep.  I finished as fast as I could and ran to the barbell, getting there right as time expired.  I was wiped out.

Luckily, I had taken Thursday as a vacation day to go fly fishing.  I had tried the main branch of the White River on Sunday and there was too much water.  But, I was downstream from where two other branches of the White dump into the main branch.  This time, I stayed on the main branch, but went about 15 miles upstream from where I fished last Sunday.  I went to a popular spot to start and fished there from about noon until 4:00.  There were a few bugs hatching, mostly Hendricksons, so I used a pheasant tail nymph to try to approximate the Hendrickson in its nymph phase.  It took me a while to figure things out, but I finally realized the fish were holding high in the holes, often in some white water just below a drop-off.  They wouldn't touch anything that wasn't drifting exactly with the current.  And, the takes were very subtle.  After all of this finally registered with me, I hooked into 5 wild rainbows and got 3 of them to the net.

A little after 4:00, I decided to find another area to fish.  I drove around for a bit before finally settling on a stretch I'd never fished before near the town of Stockbridge.  It looked like some fishable riffles that would eventually lead me to a couple holes that looked very promising.  On my third cast in the shallower water, a fish slammed my fly hard.  It turned out to be a stocked rainbow.  I had wandered into an area visited by the stocking truck the day before.  While stocked fish aren't my first choice, they can provide a lot of fun and they aren't very picky.  I caught a second fish on my 6th cast and a 3rd on my 10th cast.  As I moved downstream, the fishing just got better.  Eventually, I caught 5 fish at one spot without moving my feet at all.  By the time I'd fished down to the deeper holes that had intrigued me earlier, I had caught close to 20 fish at this spot already.  The deeper holes yielded nothing, so I started to slowly work my way back upstream.  By the time I got back to where I'd started, I'd caught 31 stocked trout, making it 34 for the day.  I'd been in my waders for 9 hours and I was tired, and darkness was approaching, so I got out of there.

Stocked fish aren't very smart, but I still had some fun.  And, maybe by catching and then releasing them, they will learn something and not be such easy prey for the next fisherman that comes along, one who might be looking for dinner.  On occasion, these stocked fish can adapt to the wild and thrive in the river.  Last year, I took a large holdover rainbow that had spent more than a full year in the river.  It's rare, but it happens.  But, most stocked fish end up on a dinner plate somewhere.  I have no objections to that at all.  They really are a consumable resource.  I even wonder if we should stock the rivers here in Vermont that have reproducing fish populations.  But, stocking is popular and is not likely to go away soon.  And, it provided me with 3 hours of fun yesterday.

Tonight is a heavy deadlift day at the gym and my legs are still tired.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Getting my butt kicked

Last night at CrossFit, I was reduced to a sweaty mass of cramping muscles by the end of the workout.  I knew going into the workout that it would be tough, but I had no idea how much it would take out of me.

The first part of the workout was heavy back squats.  Based on my max squat from last summer, I was supposed to do 5 reps at 245, 3 at 280, and max reps at 315.  After a warm-up, I got through the first set just fine.  The second set was tolerable because the reps were decreased.  I was hoping I could get at least 3 reps in the last set.  I focused on getting good depth, so every rep would be legit, but at the heavier weight, my form just fell apart.  I struggled to keep my chest up and my torso vertical.  It was more like I was doing a limited range-of-motion good morning.  I did manage to get 4 reps, and they were legal, but they were ugly.

Next, we had 3 sets of Bulgarian Split Squats - 8 reps per leg in each set.  The plan was to do them with a barbell, but because my form had deteriorated in the squats, I held kettlebells in my hands instead.  The third set was really hard, but I managed to finish.

All that remained was this:

Run 400m
30 x 225# Deadlift
20 Burpee Box Jumps
Run 400m

I had run intervals on Sunday.  I had run on Saturday.  I had done some running interval work (low volume) last Thursday, Wednesday, and Tuesday.  My legs were shot and I knew it.  This was going to hurt a lot.

On the first 400m run, I was dead last in the class.  In the "old days", when I was a runner and not a has-been, I was fast enough that I would have been at the front of the pack.  Now, with my high volume running days in the past, I tend to be in the second half of the pack, but not at the back.  But last night, I was dead last on the first run.

I started the deadlifts.  The coach wanted us to go heavy enough that it would take 4-6 sets to get through the reps.  I started with 5 reps and dropped the bar.  This is not a heavy amount for me to deadlift, but there was just nothing in the tank.  I was afraid I'd fall apart more and take 8-10 sets to finish.  By the second set, after a brief rest, I did 7 reps.  Then, 7 more.  I finished with a 6 and a 5, for only 5 sets.  On to the burpee box jumps.

I think the prescribed height for the box jumps for my workout level was 24".  I never do box jumps that high.  Normally, I do them at 18" and sometimes, 20".  After my surgery in January, box jumps were the last CrossFit movement I added back in to my training.  So, I haven't done them much in the past 4+ months.  Twice, I think.  I selected a 15" box, knowing I'd be exhausted after the running and deadlifts.

I started the burpee box jumps.  I was in pain.  My burpees were pathetic.  I basically threw myself to the ground and then stood back up, rather than jumping back to a squat position and then standing up.  What I did was legal for a competition, but not really a true burpee.  And then, I jumped onto the 15" box.  I barely made it.  After one more burpee box jump, I knew I had to revert to step-ups on this minuscule box, or I would miss a rep and hurt myself.  By the time I got to my 5th rep, the first person had finished.  By my 10th, every other person except one had left for the last 400m run.  That other person left for his run while I was on my 14th rep.

Finally, I got to 20 and headed out to run.  My legs were gone.  I somehow managed to get to 200m without falling over.  I walked for a bit.  Finally, I got it together and ran the last 150 meters or so.  Dead last.  DFL!

I hadn't even done the workout well.  I had increased the deadlifts from the recommended 205 to 225, but mostly because that lift is one of my better lifts.  But, I had to scale down on the burpee box jumps to a truly pathetic level.

Luckily, today is a planned rest day.  I'm about to go out for a lunchtime walk to see if I can stretch out my aching legs a bit.  Workouts like this are why I renamed my blog to its current title.  I am aging (rapidly, it seems) and it's hard to call myself a true athlete these days.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Busy week, with the usual CrossFit and Fly Fishing Comments

Last week included a 2-day business trip to Boston.  I managed to work out at CrossFit twice before the trip.  Tuesday night, I did heavy squats and Wednesday included bench presses.  Each workout included some additional metabolic conditioning - nothing too noteworthy.

Thursday morning, I was up very early for a drive to Cambridge, MA.  I went there to see some new technology my company is interested in using.  The traffic was terrible as I got close to Boston, and I barely made it to the meeting/demo on time.  After the meeting, I headed across the river to a hotel near Fenway Park.  After settling into my room, I changed into my workout clothes and headed for CrossFit Fenway, about a 5 minute walk from my hotel.

After doing bench presses on Wednesday, they were on the schedule for Thursday at CF Fenway.  It's a lift where I'm pretty weak, so I had no problem doing them again.  Then came the main workout, which was really tough:

25 pull-ups
200 meter farmers walk (I carried a 53# kettlebell in each hand)
15 push-ups
800 meter run
15 push-ups
200 meter farmers walk
25 pull-ups.

There was an 18 minute time limit and I managed to finish in just under 17 minutes.

After a shower, I met my niece and her fiance for some cocktails and dinner.  It was nice to get to see her again.  The next time I see her will be at her wedding in July.

Friday morning, I headed for the JFK Presidential Library for another meeting.  The library itself was amazing, and I got to see the typed pages that JFK used at the lectern to deliver some of his most famous speeches:

  • "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
  • "Ich bin ein Berliner."
  • "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..."
I still wonder on a regular basis how the world might be different today if JFK had not been assassinated and he had served two terms.

The meeting was interesting and informative, and it let out at just the perfect time for me to get stuck in more Boston traffic.  At one point, I managed only 16 miles in one hour.  The bad traffic continued north, well into NH.

Saturday, I slept in and then went for a run with one of my dogs.  Then, I headed out fly fishing.  I caught two small brook trout in a spot that is always good for 1 or 2 early season brookies, but that was it for the day.  It was a really frustrating day on a difficult river.  There were a few Hendricksons hatching, but no trout showed any interest in them.  I tried my go-to nymph for this situation - the Pheasant Tail - with no luck as well.

Sunday, I slept in again, and after some coffee, did a running interval workout - nothing too long, but very intense.  After cooking all afternoon, I went fishing again.  This time, I chose a large river that was simply not safe to wade at all (I didn't know that until I got there and gave it a try).  The water flows were dangerous.  Plus, it was windy, making casting difficult.  After less than half an hour, I gave up and returned home.

I thought last year got off to a slow start with fly fishing, but this year has been even worse.  I've been out 5 times with only 3 tiny fish for my efforts.  But, I'll start catching fish soon, if we can just go a week or so without a lot of rain.  It seems that all of the really great weather days (today, last Friday) are days where I'm at work and can't just sneak out to go fishing.

Friday, May 2, 2014

I need a moratorium on "big events"

Last week, my older car died.  Well, it didn't really die.  It is still running well at 200,000 miles.  But, it wouldn't pass inspection due to some damage and subsequent rust on the underbody.  That created a quandary for my wife and me.  We barely need a second car.  My son drives our second car 90% of the time.  But, on occasion, we need to be in different places, and we need a second car some of the time.  My wife certainly needs a car to take care of household business in the winter on days I'm skiing and she isn't.

The car could be fixed for about $3000.  Its value was about $5000.  With that many miles, it didn't seem to be worth fixing.  The dealer didn't really want the car.  A car that won't pass inspection isn't worth a lot wholesale.  But, Subaru WRXs are highly sought after in the used car market.  Hobbyists love to re-build them, make them faster, and even an older high mileage car has value.  Trying to sell it also meant dealing with web sites like Craigslist.  I've sold a number of things on Craigslist over the years - electric keyboard, guitar, snow tires, and a pair of skis.  In every case, an advertisement brings out scammers and oddballs.  It just seems to be the rule with that site.  It seems that every time I've listed something on Craigslist that I get an e-mail offering 20% of my asking price within minutes.

Knowing that everyone there wants to bring the price way down, I listed the car for $3500.  Within minutes, someone wanted to know how low I would go in price.  I told him $2500, in cash, by Friday.  I sent him pictures.  I honestly explained every known issue with the car.  We agreed to a time.  I cleaned the car, filled out the documents for a sale, put the snow tires in the back as a freebie, and even washed the car.  I confirmed the time and place with the guy.  Of course, he never showed.

(Oh yeah, another guy offered to trade me a used Motocross bike for the car.  Only on Craigslist.)

We had already talked to the Subaru dealer about getting a new Impreza, and I basically wanted the cheapest car on the lot.  We have no need for extras in a second car we barely use.  We were planning to give them the $2500 from the WRX sale as a down payment.  So, after the no-show, we went to the dealer.  They were willing to give us $1200 for the car.  We'd just have to pay the rest in cash.  We picked out a car.  We didn't even want to test drive it.  My three previous cars had been variations on the Impreza, so there was no need to drive it.  Color didn't matter.  Features didn't matter.  Price was all that mattered.

We were just about done with the deal, when the salesman went to get some paperwork for the trade.  I looked at my phone and I had an e-mail from someone wanting to know if I'd take $2000 cash for the car.  I told my wife.  She immediately suggested it was an accomplice of the guy who'd stood us up, angling for a better price.  But, I had to find out.  I replied and told her where I was and that the car was ready to go immediately.  If we couldn't do something fast, it was going to be traded in.  She agreed to meet.  So, we gave the Subaru guy a deposit on the car and said we'd be back in the morning, and we'd either trade the car for $1200 with some cash or give him all cash.  We met the woman and her boyfriend (or maybe husband - not sure).  I gave her every chance to slip up, reveal that she knew something I'd sent in e-mails earlier in the week to the other potential buyer.  Nothing.  So, it was probably fortuitous timing on her part.

Her boyfriend and I drove it.  I explained every known problem.  She offered me $1800 on the spot, after offering $2000 an hour earlier.  She explained it was due to 2 tiny rust spots.  I started to argue that $2000 was a good deal.  And then I stopped, signed the papers and took her cash.  I have a new Impreza.  It's white (I think they call it pearl) and kind of ugly.  But, it fills the void.  I haven't even driven it yet.

Last July, we had some huge repairs on a different car.  After that, we traded that car - a car we really liked, locking ourselves into a car payment that we didn't really want.  In August, I had an abnormal result in a routine lab test.  In September, my mother died unexpectedly.  In October, I had a prostate biopsy and found out I had cancer.  In January, I had major surgery and missed half the month from my regular job and the entire month from my ski instructor job.  And, there were a few other things going on that I'm not going to mention here.  And now, another major car issue.

Right now, I need some calmness.  I want to go to the gym.  Go fly fishing.  Hang out with my wife.  Run, hike, ride my bike.  Watch my daughter play lacrosse.  That's it.  Simple things.  No big surprises.  At least for a while.